County Warns Of New Fatal Drug Additive

Chautauqua County officials are monitoring the emergence of xylazine, a horse tranquilizer that has been found mixed with drugs seized by area police departments.

Xylazine, a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use, is being found mixed with fentanyl and other opioids in communities nationwide. Added to these street drugs to extend their effects, xylazine, also known as tranq, also increases the already serious risk of a drug overdose.

“Xylazine threatens to intensify an already severe overdose problem in our county,” said Dr. Michael Faulk Chautauqua County’s chief medical officer and health director. “County residents are warned that using any street drug is dangerous and potentially deadly.”

The warning issued Wednesday comes a day after state Sen. Nathalia Fernandez, D-Bronx, introduced S.6084 to prohibit the sale of xylazine without proof of its intended use for insititutional or scientific purposes. Fernandez also wants to require proof of age so the drug can’t be sold to anyone under the age of 21. The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee and has not been scheduled for discussion yet. A companion bill also has not yet been introduced in the state Assembly.

“Outcomes for individuals are worsening as additives such as fentanyl and xylazine are being added to the formula,” Fernandez wrote in her legislative justification. “Unlike fentanyl, the effects of which can be reversed with opioid antagonists like naloxone, xylazine is a tranquilizer with no equivalent reversal agent. Furthermore, xylazine can cause not only death but many other complications including unconsciousness and open sores. We need to be proactive and prevent xylazine from being added to opioids being sold on the street to avoid the devastating effects we have seen in other parts of the country.”

Another bill was reintroduced late last week by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Saratoga Springs, and Sen. James Skoufis, D-New York City, that would reclassify xylazine as a Schedule 3 depressant.

Xylazine was originally developed as a veterinary anesthesia. It was first identified as an adulterant in heroin supplies in the early 2000s. According to an Associated Press report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2021 that xylazine was involved in fatal drug overdoses in 23 states in 2019, with the highest rate — 67% — happening in the Northeast. The animal sedative used in veterinary medicine to sedate cows, horses, sheep and other animals is being added to other drugs, mostly fentanyl and heroin, as a cutting agent, officials said.

“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram said in a recent agency alert.

Media reports have indicated the discovery of xylazine in cities nationwide, including in 90% of Philadelphia’s street drug supply. Because it is not an opioid, xylazine does not respond to naloxone (Narcan), the opioid overdose-reversing medication. Repeated use of xylazine is also associated with severe skin ulcers, abscesses, and related complications.

Resources to help those struggling with substance use can be found at CombatAddictionCHQ.com. Individuals who continue to use illicit drugs are advised that naloxone, while ineffective against xylazine, does still reverse the effects of opioids present in someone experiencing an overdose. Local sources of naloxone can be found at CombatAddictionCHQ.com. Resources such as the National Overdose Prevention Lifeline at neverusealone.com are also available.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today