Reed Backs Biden Administration Declaring Xylazine as an ‘Emerging Threat’

 Reed Backs Biden Administration Declaring Xylazine as an ‘Emerging Threat’
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Sen. Reed says new federal designation will free up millions to help combat dangerous drug ‘tranq’ that is turning up in RI


PROVIDENCE, RI – U.S. Senator Jack Reed is backing the Biden Administration’s decision to label illicit fentanyl laced with the animal tranquilizer xylazine as an “emerging threat.”  Xylazine is a non-opioid tranquilizer that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for veterinary use in 1972, and is not fit for human use.

This designation, announced today by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) after careful review by experts, means that the federal government can marshal resources to help counteract the street drug combination known as ‘tranq’ that has been found in Rhode Island and most states.

The ’emerging threat’ designation marks the first time ONDCP has used its authority to declare such a category for fast-growing drug dangers, since Senator Reed helped pass the SUPPORT Act (P.L. 115-271), which granted this authority in 2018.

In January of this year, Senator Reed joined Brown University researchers, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, and law enforcement officers to warn about the emerging threat of xylazine, which Brown University School of Public Health’s testRI (Toxicological and Ethnographic Drug Surveillance Testing in Rhode Island) showed was turning up in 44 percent of samples of illicit drugs it tested.

Xylazine can cause serious wounds that won’t heal — no matter where users inject the drug — and the rotting flesh wounds may appear even if users snort or smoke the drug.  As a result, infections are common and can lead to amputations.  Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects, which can result in higher rates of overdose.

Today, following the Biden Administration’s announcement, Senator Reed stated:

“This is a smart move to protect public health and counter the danger posed by tranq.  A lot of people don’t even know they are taking this stuff.  Declaring xylazine as an ’emerging threat’ is a needed step and part of a coordinated strategy to stop fentanyl from poisoning our communities.  It will help the federal government effectively marshal resources to counter this drug.  ONDCP should get millions in new federal funds to help stop tranq from spreading and prevent fatal overdoses.  It will also help with research and figuring out how to prevent avoidable overdoses.  We must continue working to cut off the supply of fentanyl and invest in addiction prevention, recovery, and treatment programs.  When it comes to dealing with xylazine or tranq, this ’emerging threat’ designation will raise awareness and help law enforcement and public health officials team up save lives and prevent these illicit drugs from plaguing communities.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the laboratory identifications of xylazine rose in all four U.S. census regions in 2020 and 2021, and xylazine-positive overdose deaths increased by 1,127 percent in the South, 750 percent in the West, more than 500 percent in the Midwest, and more than 100 percent in the Northeast.

DEA reported seizing xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States. The DEA Laboratory System reported that in 2022 approximately 23 percent of fentanyl powder and 7 percent of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine.

The ’emerging threat’ designation comes on the heels of the Biden Administration announcing new steps this week to crack down on fentanyl supply chains by increasing sanctions and expanding cooperation with global partners.

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