US lawmakers have moved to classify the animal tranquilizer xylazine as a controlled drug.
The bipartisan legislation that was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate on Tuesday reflects the growing concern about the highly dangerous sedative commonly known as "tranq" or "tranq dope."
In a statement, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the lead sponsor of this bill, stated that drug traffickers go to great lengths in order to pad their profit with dangerous drugs such as tranq. We need to empower our law enforcement in order to crackdown on its spreading in our communities. This bipartisan bill will give the DEA and local police the tools to remove xylazine from our streets, while still protecting its use as a veterinary calmiator.
Xylazine is not approved for human consumption. It is a sedative that has the same effects as an opioid, but it's not one. Therefore, it does not respond to Narcan, which is used for opioid overdoses.
Fentanyl, a fast acting opioid, can be extended by adding xylazine. However, xylazine can cause severe soft tissue wounds and necrosis (sometimes described as rotting flesh) that may lead to amputation.
This month, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public alert noting that xylazine was widespread. It has been found in 23% of powder fentanyl and 7% of pill fentanyl seizures.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram stated in the alert that fentanyl is even more deadly than xylazine.
The federal government hasn't been able to regulate xylazine despite reports of its alarming growth.
The proposed legislation would close this gap, by making xylazine Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act. This is a category in the five-level system of substances with a moderate to low risk of physical or psychological dependency. Xylazine is one level below opioids such as fentanyl.
The bill also requires manufacturers to report production and distribution data to the DEA, so that the agency can verify the product isn't being diverted into the black market.
In a statement, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H), a cosponsor, stated that the bipartisan bill will take important steps in combating the abuse of xylazine. It would give law enforcement greater authority to crackdown on the illegal distribution of this substance, as well as stiffer penalties for criminals who spread this drug into our communities. My colleagues on both sides are witnessing the effects of this deadly drug within their own states. We will continue to work together in order to advance this important bill.
In veterinary medicine, xylazine can be used to sedate large animals such as horses and cattle.
Dr. Lori Teller is the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. She said that the group 'fully supported this congressional effort to fight illicit xylazine'.
Teller stated that he urged Congress to quickly pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, as it struck the right balance between protecting our communities and preserving veterinary accessibility to this vital animal drug.
Mary Sylla is the director of overdose policy and strategy for the National Harm Reduction Coalition. This national advocacy group for drug users, believes the bill goes in the wrong directions.
The National Harm Reduction Coalition believes that criminalizing drugs will never reduce drug abuse or addiction. The opposite is true. She said that criminalization is the opposite to harm reduction.
Sylla prefers to see more money and support going towards harm reduction programs that are based on evidence, like overdose prevention or syringe-access programs.
It has been shown that harm reduction reduces drug usage and gets people into treatment. It allows people to make better choices and meet them where they are.
Some states have acted on their own. New York and Massachusetts lawmakers have passed laws making xylazine controlled substances, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an executive order on Wednesday to classify xylazine as a Schedule III substance.
The bill is intended to provide new tools for combating this deadly trend at a national scale.
In a statement, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), another bill sponsor, stated that drug overdoses were still unacceptably high. Cartels and traffickers continued to flood the nation with poisons, which are deadly and constantly changing. We cannot prevent these tragedies if we have one hand tied behind back.