Bipartisan Push to Combat ‘Tranq’: Xylazine, the Latest Threat in the Opioid Crisis

Opioid EpidemicImage by B.A.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a united front against the escalating opioid crisis, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and a bipartisan group of his Senate and House colleagues called for urgent approval of an updated version of their Combating Illicit Xylazine Act on Thursday. The legislation targets a veterinary tranquilizer known as xylazine, or “tranq,” which has emerged as a dangerous additive in the illicit drug market.

Xylazine, originally intended for use in large animals, is increasingly mixed with fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, as a low-cost cutting agent. However, unlike opioids, the effects of xylazine cannot be reversed by naloxone, a medication used to counteract opioid overdoses. This combination has been designated an “emerging threat” by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“As we work to stop the flow of fentanyl which is ravaging communities across Pennsylvania, the last thing we need is another drug compounding the tragedy of fentanyl and making the street drug supply even deadlier,” said Senator Casey. He noted that Philadelphia, in particular, has experienced the tragic consequences of this lethal mix.

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act aims to arm law enforcement with the tools necessary to target traffickers while preserving access to xylazine for veterinarians, farmers, and ranchers who use it for its intended purpose. Specifically, the legislation proposes to:

  1. Classify xylazine as a Schedule III controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This classification would place xylazine in a category of drugs with moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
  2. Clearly define an “ultimate user” as someone lawfully allowed to possess a controlled substance for legitimate use. This definition aims to ensure that professionals who need xylazine for their work, such as vets and farmers, can still access it.
  3. Enable the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor its manufacturing to prevent diversion to the illicit market.
  4. Mandate a report on the prevalence, risks, and recommendations regarding xylazine.
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The introduction of this legislation underscores the evolving nature of the opioid crisis. The incorporation of drugs like xylazine into the illicit drug supply not only increases the potency of street drugs but also complicates the efforts of first responders and medical professionals who rely on naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.

Passage of the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act could mark a significant step forward in tackling the opioid crisis. By addressing the threat posed by xylazine and similar substances, lawmakers can equip law enforcement with the tools necessary to crack down on drug trafficking while ensuring that those who need these substances for legitimate purposes can still access them. This balance is critical in a landscape where the line between legal and illegal substance use is increasingly blurred.

As communities across the country grapple with the devastating impacts of the opioid epidemic, legislation like the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act serves as a reminder of the need for adaptive, comprehensive approaches to drug policy. The passage of this act could represent a crucial step in the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis, demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding communities while adapting to the ever-changing tactics of illicit drug markets.

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