Emerging Threat: Fentanyl and Xylazine Mixture Linked to Soaring Overdose Deaths in the US
President Joe Biden’s drug czar has declared that the use of fentanyl mixed with Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer known as “tranq,” has become an emerging threat across the United States. The use of this drug combination has been linked to a sharp increase in overdose deaths, and the government is required to develop a federal plan to address the crisis. This declaration by Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marks the first time a presidential administration has formally labeled an illicit drug an “emerging threat” and then required the federal government to take further action.
What is fentanyl mixed with Xylazine, and why is it a problem?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is often mixed with other drugs to increase its potency. Xylazine is a veterinary sedative approved for use in animals, but not for human use.
When mixed with fentanyl and sold on the illicit drug market, it has caused a sharp increase in overdose deaths across the United States. Xylazine, which is not an opioid, cannot be counteracted by the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone, in case of an overdose.The spread of Xylazine-laced fentanyl has exacerbated the nationwide addiction crisis, ravaging communities and deepening the toll of addiction.
Why is this an emerging threat?
The federal government has reported that overdose deaths involving Xylazine have risen in every region of the country in recent years. From 2020 to 2021, Xylazine-linked deaths increased more than 1,000% in the South, 750% in the West, and more than 500% in the Midwest, according to a DEA report (DEA Report). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 66% of drug poisoning deaths in the United States involve synthetic opioids like fentanyl (CDC).
What actions will the federal government take?
The declaration by Dr. Gupta requires the Biden administration to develop a federal plan to address the crisis. The government must publish a response plan within 90 days and send implementation guidance to agencies within 120 days, among other actions. The federal government will be mindful that Xylazine has legitimate uses in the veterinary profession and the agriculture industry while working on a whole-of-government response.
What are the dangers of ingesting xylazine?
Xylazine is not approved for human use, and ingesting it can cause serious, life-threatening effects, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). People who inject it can develop flesh wounds, including blackened, rotting tissue (known as necrosis), which, if untreated, may result in amputation, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
In conclusion, the use of fentanyl mixed with Xylazine is an emerging threat facing the United States that has caused a sharp increase in overdose deaths. The federal government is required to develop a response plan to address this crisis, which includes evidence-based prevention, treatment, and supply reduction. It is important for parents to be aware of the dangers of drug use and to educate their children about the risks involved.