By Miriam Raftery
August 11, 2023 (San Diego) – Five overdose deaths in San Diego County have been linked to a large animal tranquilizer, Xylazine, known on the streets as Tranq, according to Councilmember Marni Von Wilpert. The drug can cause flesh to rot and in extreme cases, amputation of limbs. It is being laced into street drugs including fentanyl, methamphetamines and heroin, so users are often unaware that they’re consuming Xylazine.
Narcan does not work to reverse a Xylazine overdose because Xylazine is not a narcotic.
However, Narcan is still recommended to try and revive overdose victims, since first responders likely won’t know whether the overdose is due to Xyazine or to narcotics it’s mixed with, which do respond to Narcan. To learn how to treat breathing issues when Narcan fails, visit the CDC website.
Xylazine has also recently been confirmed in Los Angeles County, where the Sheriff’s Department has begun testing for the flesh-eating and potentially deadly substance, the Los Angeles Times reports.
District Attorney Summer Stephan has asked San Diego County’s Medical Examiner to begin testing victims of lethal overdoses for Xylazine.
Xylazine problems began on the East Coast a few years ago but only recently has the drug made its way to the West coast.
Xylazine is not approved for human use. The drug is a central nervous system depressant that can cause amnesia, slow breathing and heart rate, drowsiness, and drop blood pressure to dangerously low levels, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Xylazine test strips have been developed, which the Center for Forensic Science Research & Education has evaluated and found appropriate for testing drugs to see if Xylazine is present. The test strips are available through BTNX.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria has sounded a warning on the drug’s potential. NBC 7 reports Mayor Gloria recently stated, “If it is anything like fentanyl, just a few years ago we only had a handful of fentanyl overdose cases and now we have hundreds. We hope that we don’t have something similar with tranq.”
At the federal level, the Biden administration is also taking steps to combat the spread of xylazine, including testing, research, data collection, supply reduction, and prevention.