Washington is getting nervous about “Tranq,” a nasty drug complicating the fentanyl crisis

Congress is sounding the alarm over “Tranq,” an animal tranquilizer that’s being mixed with fentanyl with alarming frequency, worsening the US drug overdose crisis.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Thursday urged the Drug Enforcement Administration to channel more dollars and manpower to local agencies fighting xylazine, the official name for Tranq. He wants distraction control teams deployed across the country to tackle the drug and said he will urge the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency to increase funding to deal with xylazine.

Vets and ranchers use xylazine as a sedative, but drug users combine it with synthetic opioids to increase feelings of euphoria. It also increases the risk of overdose and death, and can cause nasty skin abscesses and ulcers that may require amputations.

“This is turning the opioid crisis into a nightmare,” said Mr. Schumer, a New York Democrat. “Xylazine. It’s a deadly, skin-crushing zombie drug that’s causing and spreading a horrific spate of drug overdoses across the country.”

Lawmakers and experts said the drug is not subject to the Controlled Substances Act, so there is poor tracking and monitoring of its importation and use. Toxicology labs don’t test it regularly, so the history of the problem remains unclear.

Mr. Schumer’s push to combat Tranq follows a bipartisan push this week to declare xylazine an emerging threat and place it on the Schedule III drug list to encourage better prosecution and enforcement of penalties for illegal use.

“This law recognizes the dangers posed by the increasing abuse of animal tranquilizers by drug traffickers and provides new tools to combat this deadly trend. It also ensures that people like veterinarians, ranchers and ranchers can continue to access these drugs for true animal care,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and lead sponsor of the bill with Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire.

According to the DEA, 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl-spiked pills seized in 2022 contained xylazine. Regulators at the Food and Drug Administration recently announced steps to screen imports of the drug and authorize staff to intercept suspicious shipments.

US leaders say Tranq has inundated the Northeast in recent years but then blanketed the nation.

More than 100,000 Americans die from drug overdoses each year. The deaths are caused by the proliferation of fentanyl, which is often manufactured by Mexican cartels using Chinese chemicals. Tranq exacerbates this underlying problem.

“When a new drug rears its ugly head, if you don’t nip it in the bud, it becomes ingrained in our society and takes years, sometimes decades, to disappear,” Mr. Schumer said.

Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor who is following the overdose crisis, said xylazine can cause skin damage even when the needle is clean.

Chronic use constricts the blood vessels that carry oxygen to the skin, Mr Humphreys said. And without adequate oxygen, skin is vulnerable to ulcers, abscesses, and infection.

“It causes severe wounds to the skin, sometimes to the bone,” Mr. Schumer said. “There is a lot of dead tissue, there are breathing and heart rate issues, and the infections from these wounds can often result in people even losing their limbs. So it’s a terrible drug.”

To make matters worse, Tranq is not an opioid, so overdose-reversal drugs like naloxone are not effective against it.

“There is no antidote,” said Mr. Schumer.

Experts still recommend giving naloxone and say there are no downsides to trying to resuscitate someone who has a suspected overdose. The FDA decided this week to make a nasal spray version, NARCAN, available over-the-counter and without a prescription.

dr Rahul Gupta, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, convened the Evolving and Emerging Threats Committee earlier this year to discuss whether it should formally designate xylazine as an emerging threat. The naming, which could come soon, would stimulate awareness and the development of sorely missing treatments.

“Given the urgency of the moment, ONDCP is asking drug control program agencies such as the DEA, FDA, and SAMHSA to raise awareness of emerging issues related to xylazine-adulterated fentanyl,” said Dr. Gupta on Thursday. “At the same time, the government is rapidly identifying the real, concrete, state-of-the-art steps we must take to prevent, test, regulate and otherwise fully address this threat.”

Source : www.washingtontimes.com

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