Xylazine warning issued after surge of overdose deaths

May 20, 2023

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 18, 2023) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond today joined a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congressional leadership to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act (H.R.1839/S.993), which would provide critical measures to combat the widespread illicit use and trafficking of xylazine and help prevent xylazine-related deaths.

The letter comes following a surge in overdose deaths nationwide related to xylazine, a potent veterinary medication that has been widely mixed with opioids like fentanyl and is easily obtainable online. Over the past few months, multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), have issued public alerts about the dangers of xylazine. Most recently, the White House declared fentanyl-adulterated or -associated xylazine (FAAX) an “emerging threat” to the nation.

Xylazine is its pharmaceutical name, tranq is its street name. It's been called the 'zombie drug', it doesn't respond to naloxone and causes wounds so severe, it can lead to amputation. Xylazine, the skin-rotting zombie drug is becoming an increasing problem in the US. Some refer to it as a flesh-eating drug. In recent days, multiple news alerts have been issued.

“It is important that Congress moves swiftly and decisively to address the dangers of Xylazine, which has made the nation’s deadly fentanyl crisis even deadlier,” Drummond said. “Xylazine-related overdose deaths are spiking throughout the U.S. We cannot afford inaction.”

Xylazine is only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a veterinary medicine used to sedate and relieve pain in large animals. In humans, xylazine is known to depress breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and cause unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death. As Xylazine is not an opioid, existing medications such as naloxone are ineffective in reversing the drug’s effects even if used with opioids.

According to the DEA, xylazine-related overdose deaths across the U.S. rose dramatically between 2020 and 2021, with an increase of 1,127 percent in the Southern region, 750 percent in the Western region, 516 percent in the Mideast region and 103 percent in the Northeast region. Additionally, in 2022, approximately 23 percent of fentanyl powder and seven percent of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine.

To prevent the proliferation of FAAX in communities and keep people safe, Drummond and the coalition emphasized the importance of the measures outlined in the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, which include:

Classifying the illicit use of xylazine as a Schedule III drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act; Allowing the DEA to track the manufacturing and sales of xylazine to ensure that it is not diverted; Requiring the U.S. Attorney General, acting through the DEA and in coordination with the FDA Commissioner, to submit a report to Congress detailing the prevalence, risks and recommendations on how to regulate the illicit use of xylazine; and ensuring all salts, isomers and other forms of xylazine are also covered when restricting the drug’s illicit use.

Joining Drummond in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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