White House designates Xylazine-Fentanyl mix as an ’emerging threat’
Jhe United States has designated a veterinary tranquilizer an “emerging threat” when mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl, paving the way for more efforts to stop the spread of xylazine.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy announced the designation Wednesday, the first time the bureau has used it since the fast-growing drug hazard category was created in 2019.
Dr Rahul Gupta, director of the office of drug policy, said xylazine (pronounced ZAI’-luh-zeen) has become increasingly common in all parts of the country.
It has been detected in approximately 800 drug-related deaths in the United States in 2020, most of them in the Northeast. In 2021, it was present in more than 3,000 deaths, most of them in the South, according to a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration last year.
“We can’t ignore what we see,” Gupta said. “We have to act and act now.”
Xylazine was approved for veterinary use in 1971. Sometimes known as “tranq”, it has only appeared in stocks of illicit drugs used by humans in significant quantities in recent years.
It is believed to be added to other drugs to increase profits. Authorities are trying to understand how much is diverted from veterinary use and how much is illicitly manufactured.
The drug slows breathing and heart rate, sometimes to lethal levels, and causes skin abscesses and ulcers that may require amputation. Weaning is also painful.
Although it is often used in conjunction with opioids, including fentanyl and illicit lab-made drugs, it is not an opioid. And there is no known antidote.
Gupta said his office is requesting $11 million as part of its budget to develop a strategy to fight the spread of the drug. Plans include developing an antidote, learning more about how it gets into the illicit drug supply so it can be disrupted, and determining whether Congress should classify it as a controlled substance.
Gupta said it must be available for veterinary use, even amid a crackdown on the supply people use. He also said systems for detecting the drug and data on where it is used need to be improved.
The drug is part of a worsening overdose crisis in the United States
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 107,000 people died from overdoses in the 12 months ending October 31, 2022. Prior to 2020, the number of overdose deaths n never exceeded 100,000.
Most of the deaths were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Like xylazine, they are often added to other drugs and users are not always aware that they are taking them.
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