According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths in the US passed 100,000 in a single year for the first time ever.
This statistic is credited, in part, to the use of Xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer that has been increasingly mixed with Fentanyl and other drugs (often Cocaine and Heroin) to help prolong and intensify the effects of the primary drug.
In response, the White House announced an ambitious plan focused on cutting Xylazine-linked overdoses by 15% in the next two years.
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Also referred to as ‘Tranq’ or the ‘Zombie drug’, Xylazine use is uniquely characterized by two dangerous and hard-to-treat side-effects: necrotic flesh wounds and a resistance to the Opioid-overdose treatment, Narcan.
Lesions of skin necrosis, often found on a person’s arms, legs, and back, can result from Xylazine use, as one of its intended effects is to constrict blood flow throughout the body. This constriction can lead to the development of deep flesh wounds that have a foul smell and often resemble chemical burns. They are also resistant to treatment and can lead to infection and even amputation of the affected limb.
Xylazine is also resistant to the Opioid-overdose treatment Narcan. Since Xylazine is often mixed with Opioids but is not an Opioid itself, its sedative effects can linger and cause dangerous overdose symptoms such as reduced breathing and heart rate.
These unique dangers of Xylazine make it the most dangerous drug on the illicit market since the introduction of Fentanyl.
White House Introduces Ambitious Plan
The Biden Administration admits that the exact plan of action is not entirely clear but ensured that tackling the Xylazine epidemic is of utmost importance.
Addressing the immense danger of the drug, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta told the press on Tuesday, “If we thought that Fentanyl was dangerous, Fentanyl-combined Xylazine is even deadlier.”
He continued that while the full scale of the epidemic is unknown, increasing research on contributing factors and finding treatments for Xylazine overdose is top priority.
Long-term, the plan focuses on testing, research development, data collection, supply reduction, and implementation of harm reduction strategies.
Short-term goals include developing best practices in wound care for Xylazine-related sores and treatment specifically created to treat Xylazine overdose.
At this time, there will be no restrictions placed on Xylazine use for veterinary purposes.
Government agencies involved in the effort have 120 days to report to the White House their plan of action outlining their strategy implementation. A follow-up report from the White House is expected in February of 2024.
Don’t Wait To Get Help
The rise of overdoses from Xylazine-laced Fentanyl is a public health crisis that cannot be ignored. Implementation of harm reduction strategies and intervention all play an important role in combating Xylazine use and, most importantly, saving lives.
If you are struggling with an addiction to Xylazine-laced Fentanyl or other drugs, take back control of your life today. Talk with a treatment provider now.
Jessica Sherer earned her B.A. in English from Ashford University and has over eight years of copyediting experience in healthcare education. Dedicated to providing clear and useful information, she hopes her work will help to support those affected by addiction.
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