The deadly opioid epidemic in the U.S. has been a persistent issue for several years, claiming thousands of lives and leaving behind broken families and communities. With the emergence of the animal tranquilizer xylazine mixed with opioids, the situation has become even more dire.
Boston is facing a new epidemic in the form of xylazine mixed with opioids, according to local reports. The tranquilizer, commonly used on animals, is causing a surge in opioid overdoses in the area.
This video appears to have been taken beneath the EL in Philly. A bunch of zombies on what is known on the street as "Tranq". It's not an opioid believe it or not. it's a sedative called Xylazine. Some are combining tranq and Fentanyl which is a deadly duo. pic.twitter.com/xIUublgbky
— 🇺🇸 Anastasia Greene (@ScreamedInVain) January 25, 2023
According to toxicology tests, xylazine was found in 5% of opioid overdose deaths in the first half of 2022 and 28% of drug samples tested in June 2022. The short-term effects of the drug are devastating, leading to wounds, abscesses, sores, and unresponsiveness to Narcan, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, according to Julie Burns, the President, and CEO of RIZE Massachusetts.
RIZE Massachusetts is a nonprofit foundation that was founded to address ending the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts and mitigating the harm caused to citizens there.
Health centers in Boston have been testing drugs and found that a third of fentanyl samples contain xylazine. According to Allyson Pinkhover, the Director of Substance Use Services at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, the medical community is not well equipped to deal with the tranquilizer. She described in particular the inefficiency of current screening for the substance at medical facilities.
The opioid crisis in the U.S. has already cost $1.5 trillion during the COVID-19 pandemic, a 37% increase from 2017, according to a congressional report.
Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) has introduced legislation to fight pill dumping and suspicious opioid shipments. The proposed law would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to require investigations of all reports of suspicious orders of controlled substances and intercept them when appropriate.
Legislation is an important step but is not a solution in and of itself.
The opioid crisis is a major public health issue threatening every part of American society, and the addition of xylazine to the mix only adds to the urgency of the situation. The problem demands a coordinated response between federal and local officials working with every local community.