A coalition of thirty-nine attorneys general is urging Congress to reclassify xylazine as a controlled substance, citing its significant involvement in drug overdoses. While veterinarians commonly use this sedative for large animals, recent findings by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) indicate that it has been mixed with fentanyl, contributing to a rise in overdose deaths.
DEA statistics reveal a troubling trend in southern states, where overdose deaths associated with xylazine increased by a staggering 1127%, rising from 116 in 2020 to 1,423 in 2021.
According to a letter from the attorneys general addressed to Congress, the drug is being purchased online by individuals with no legitimate connection to veterinary medicine. On the streets, xylazine is known as “trang” or “zombie drug,” as it slows down breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
It is important to note that xylazine is not classified as an opioid. Consequently, even when combined with fentanyl, it does not respond to naloxone, the standard medication used to reverse opioid overdoses.
The bipartisan group of attorneys general emphasized that xylazine is readily accessible. They highlighted a recent DEA intelligence report stating that a kilogram of xylazine powder can be obtained online from Chinese suppliers, with prices ranging from $6 to $20 USD per kilogram. The low cost has led to an increasing number of traffickers using xylazine as an adulterant to boost profits in the illicit drug market.
In response to the concerning situation, the DEA updated its public safety alert in November, specifically addressing the combination of xylazine and fentanyl. DEA Administrator Ann Milgram warned, “Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier.” The DEA Laboratory System reported that approximately 23% of seized fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills in 2022 contained xylazine.
The attorneys general are calling on Congress to reclassify all forms of illicitly used xylazine as a Schedule III offense. Additionally, they are requesting that the DEA monitor the manufacturing and sales of xylazine.
To address this pressing issue, bipartisan bills known as the “Combating Illicit Xylazine Act” have been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. The House version is under the purview of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, while the Senate version is assigned to the Judiciary Committee.
The attorneys general’s collective effort seeks to curb the escalating dangers associated with xylazine misuse, safeguard public health, and combat the alarming rise in overdose rates caused by this lethal drug combination.