President Joe Biden’s drug czar declared Wednesday that fentanyl mixed with xylazine, an animal tranquilizer known as «tranq» that has been linked to a rising number of overdose deaths in the US, represents an «emerging threat.» facing the nation.
The statement of Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, requires the Biden administration to develop a federal plan to address the crisis. The government must now publish a response plan within 90 days and send implementation guidance to agencies within 120 days, among other steps.
«As the president’s drug policy adviser, I am deeply concerned about what this threat means to the nation,» Gupta told reporters during a conference call Tuesday, later adding: «We must act and act now.»
Gupta’s announcement marks the first time a presidential administration has formally labeled an illicit drug an «emerging threat» and then required the federal government to take additional action, a legal authority it obtained under the SUPPORT Act, a sweeping bill enacted by the former president. Donald Trump in 2018.
Research has shown that opioids such as fentanyl are increasingly being combined with xylazine and sold on the illicit drug market. according to the national institutes of health. The spread of fentanyl mixed with xylazine has exacerbated the addiction crisis nationwide, devastating communities and deepening the toll of addiction.
Xylazine is not approved for human use and ingestion can cause serious and life-threatening effects, according to the Food and Drug Administration. People who inject themselves can develop flesh wounds, including blackened and rotten tissue (known as necrosis); If left untreated, these injuries can result in amputations, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The tranquilizer was approved by the FDA for veterinary use in 1972, and is typically used in horses, cows, sheep and other non-human mammals as a sedative and pain reliever, according to the FDA.
Gupta said the federal government would be aware that xylazine has «legitimate» uses in the veterinary profession and the agricultural industry as it works to «prevent» the production and distribution of illicit forms of the substance.
The federal government has previously sounded the alarm about «tranquility» in harsh terms. He DEA issued an alert last month warning of a «sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.»
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a March 20 statement.
Milgram said the DEA has seized mixtures of xylazine and fentanyl in 48 of 50 states. Xylazine was detected in about 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA in 2022, he added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 107,735 people in the United States died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisoning, and 66% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
The total number of xylazine-related overdose deaths is unknown, according to the National Institutes of Health, but research shows those deaths have spread west into the US, wreaking most of the havoc in the US. northeast.
In hard-hit Pennsylvania, for example, the percentage of all xylazine-related drug overdoses rose from 2% to 26% between 2015 and 2020, according to the NIH. Xylazine was linked to 19% of all drug overdose deaths in Maryland in 2021 and 10% in Connecticut in 2020.