New York City health officials are now encouraging junkies to use the so-called “zombie drug” xylazine under medical supervision at overdose prevention centers — without any mention of how to get unhooked from the flesh-rotting poison, stunned critics told The Post.
A new Health Department taxpayer-funded ad campaign ticks off the dangers of humans using the animal tranquilizer, known as “tranq,” noting it can “cause extreme sedation, slowed heart rate or slowed or stopped breathing.”
It offers contact information for nonprofits who provide people “test strips” to see if their drugs are tainted with xylazine and recommends calling 311 or a doctor if anyone has “skin wounds,” commonly caused by the drug, that won’t heal.
The agency recommends anyone who believes their drugs contain xylazine “avoid” using them, “especially alone or in a place where it might be dangerous to be unconscious for a long time.”
But its tips for reducing “risk of harm” for “tranq” users are a far cry from former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s famous “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.
“Bring them to an overdose prevention center to use under supervision,” according to the agency.
Nowhere does it suggest quitting or treatment.
Charles Fain Lehman, a fellow at the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute for Public Policy, said the agency’s woke harm reduction priorities are entirely twisted.
“It’s important to recognize that the [Health Department] in its public messaging is forgoing entirely a basic commitment to public health, which is this idea that drugs are bad — they hurt people,” he said.
“It’s not just about minimizing harmful use; it’s about minimizing use [altogether].”
Even addicts ripped the city’s ad campaign.
“They ain’t showing us how to keep ourselves safe,” said a 35-year-old tranq user, who went by “L” and blamed xylazine for pus-oozing sores spread throughout their body. “They’re telling us about it but not telling us what to do about it.”
Another tranq user, John Dunlavie, 38, also bashed the Health Department upon learning of its hare-brained advice.
“That’s a pretty weird way [for the city] to approach it. There’s not too many positives” with tranq, said Dulanie, pointing to his arms cratered with gray scars caused by his history of xylazine use. “It’s a bad drug!”
Xylazine is an analgesic and sedative approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for veterinary use, but it’s unsafe for human consumption.
As its popularity has spiked the past few years, xylazine has wreaked havoc in major cities with its devastating effects, including literally rotting users’ skin.
In the Big Apple, dealers commonly mix it with fentanyl – a combo known on the street as “tranq dope” — a cheap but deadly, way to make highs last longer.
Xylazine has so far only been found citywide in substances containing fentanyl, but outside New York it is also often cut with heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs also linked to surges in fatal drug overdoses, authorities said.
In November 2021, during his final weeks in office, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio opened the nation’s first two supervised injection sites in Manhattan, a move he and other progressive pols contended would help curb rising overdose deaths.
Mayor Eric Adams has continued the practice and said he hopes to have at least five overdose prevention centers running in the city by 2025 — even though the Empire State is experiencing an all-time high in recorded drug overdoses.
Early results have been abysmal — especially when it comes to xylazine-related deaths.
Overdose deaths in the city involving xylazine during the first 10 months of 2022 increased 36%, compared to the same period in 2021, according to the city’s Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
In all, xylazine was detected in 19% of fatal opioid overdoses deaths in 2021, compared to just 3% in 2020, according to a city Health Department report released in March.
The agency said it’s yet to compile similar data for 2022 or this year.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican, ripped the campaign and accused the city of “enabling drug use and addiction by … operating injection centers and vending machines with free drug paraphernalia instead of providing treatment for addicts, cracking down on dealers and traffickers and telling [President Joe] Biden to shut down the southern border to stop the cartels who are profiting from poisoning Americans.”
Xylazine-positive overdose deaths soared nationwide between 2020 to 2021 — including a whopping 103% jump in the Northeast.
In 2022, the DEA reported finding 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills it seized tested positive for xylazine, according to a joint report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency,
The Health Department defended its campaign. Agency spokesman Patrick Gallahue said overdose prevention centers “are not in opposition to people getting treatment” and that they “save lives” by keeping addicts alive “to get treatment.”
The department insisted the centers have been effective in other countries.
The department would not say how much it spent on the xylazine campaign, which includes distributing informational fliers and issuing health alerts to doctors.
OnPoint NYC, a nonprofit that operates an overdose prevention center for the city in East Harlem, said it fully supports the Health Department’s xylazine awareness campaign and the agency’s goal to manage the crisis through so-called “harm reduction.”
John Venza, a vice president for Outreach, which provides substance abuse treatment in New York City and Long Island, also praised the campaign.
“Harm reduction is about trying to keep people alive,” he said. “Not everybody is ready for their next step in the recovery journey.”
Councilwoman Diana Ayala (D-Bronx) said she understood the Health Department’s rationale for the campaign — but said there has to be a better way to help those trapped in a cycle of addiction.
“I think sometimes you have to use stronger language to discourage behavior, but I know with drug addiction, sometimes that’s counterproductive,” said Ayala, who chairs the general welfare committee. “People don’t want to be told what to do.”
However, Councilman Ari Kagan (R-Brooklyn) asked if city health “experts” are “kidding themselves?”
“These safe injection sites facilitate addiction,” said Kagan. “This city needs to get serious about preventing and treating drug abuse, not aiding these dangerous addictions.”