The US Office of National Drug Policy designated an animal tranquilizer when combined with fentanyl as an “emerging threat,” initiating a 90-day timeline for the Biden administration to coordinate a national response to the drug. It is the first use of the category created in 2018 to alert the public to a dangerous new drug.
Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1972 for use as a sedative in animal care; it has never been approved for human use. It is often blended with illicit substances as a cheap means of extending their effects, though many users aren’t aware of it. Human use of the drug is associated with severe skin ulcerations and tissue death, conditions which may require amputation. Since xylazine is not an opioid, opioid overdose-reversing medications, like naloxone, do not counter its sedative effects.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reported in March that xylazine had been detected in the drug supply in 48 US states, an exponential rise over the last five years.