Xylazine, known as “trank,” causes increased overdose deaths in New York
Illegal use of the powerful animal tranquilizer xylazine is fueling an increase in naloxone-resistant overdoses in several Central New York counties.
Xylazine is a non-opioid sedative, analgesic and muscle relaxant approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for veterinary use only. The drug has no approved use for humans.
Last October, the U.S. Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency issued a report stating that xylazine is increasingly being found in the U.S. illicit drug supply and in a growing number of overdose deaths, with the Northeast having the most identified cases of the drug in 2020 and 2021. The New York State Department of Health has reported the presence of xylazine in various parts of the state, including New York, Onondaga County, Monroe County and Long Island.
Earlier this month, the city of Syracuse in Onondaga County reported more than 40 xylazine-related overdoses, including two deaths, in one week.
Cortland County has had “at least one reported xylazine-related death,” said Sarah Watrous, director of the Healing Cortland Project, a community-wide program that aims to reduce the number of opiate overdoses in the county.
Xylazine is not included in routine toxicology reviews. Overdose involving the drug may not be easily detected and therefore underreported.
Xylazine was primarily found as an additive to the opioids heroin and fentanyl, and is also found in stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The FDA has reported that products containing xylazine may be sold under street names trans, sleep cutzombi medicineand Philly dope. Side effects of xylazine include respiratory depression, low blood pressure, and low heart rate. Individuals with repeated exposure to xylazine are at risk of developing “severe, necrotic skin ulcers,” the FDA warned.
Xylazine is not an opioid and does not react with naloxone. However, because xylazine is often mixed with heroin and fentanyl, it is recommended that naxolone be given to anyone who overdoses.
“Narcan should be given every time, every time a person is unresponsive,” said Dean O’Gorman of the Healing Hearts Collaborative, an opiate overdose prevention organization in Cortland. “We can’t keep losing people.”
Although xylazine for veterinary use is legally sold directly through pharmaceutical distributors, the DEA report warns that the drug can be purchased online from Chinese suppliers “often with no connection to the veterinary profession or requirements to demonstrate legitimate need.”
In response to the increased distribution of xylazine in the region, Sen. Charles Schumer met with members of Cortland County law enforcement and health leaders last week, where he outlined a plan to address the public health crisis. The “three-pronged plan” includes stemming the flow of drugs into the U.S., helping law enforcement and more prevention, treatment and recovery for those suffering from addiction.
“I don’t think people realize how dangerous this drug is,” Cortland County Sheriff Mark E. Helms said in a news release. “Small communities like Cortland are often the last place the public expects to see a new drug take hold. Most people haven’t even heard of xylazine, but it’s important to know that it’s already here.”
Public Safety:Yonkers, Spring Valley fires contribute to New York’s top spot in US for fire deaths in 2023
For subscribers:New York lawmakers call attention to Hochul’s proposed housing mandates. What would they change?
More ▼:Took a bribe? Robbed a store? The IRS wants you to put it on your taxes.
Follow Kate Collins on Twitter: @kcollins213. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.