The United States has long been grappling with a drug epidemic, and the situation has grown increasingly dire in recent years with the emergence of highly potent substances like fentanyl. Now, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is sounding the alarm on a new threat: the mixing of fentanyl with xylazine. This lethal combination has become the deadliest drug menace in the country, warns DEA Administrator Milgram.
Xylazine, commonly known as “Tranq,” is a potent sedative originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for veterinary use. While it is primarily intended for sedating large animals like horses, illicit drug dealers are now combining it with fentanyl to create an even more potent and lethal drug cocktail.
Dangers of the Drug Combination:
The mixture of fentanyl and xylazine poses a particularly perilous risk, greatly increasing the likelihood of fatal drug poisoning. Unlike opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, naloxone (Narcan) is ineffective against xylazine since it is not an opioid. However, experts still recommend administering naloxone in cases of drug poisoning.
Individuals who inject drug combinations containing xylazine can suffer severe wounds, including necrosis—the decay of human tissue—which has resulted in cases of amputation across the country when xylazine is mixed with heroin. Xylazine constricts blood vessels, impeding blood flow to the injection site and causing tissue damage, potentially leading to life-threatening infections.
Impact of Drugs in the U.S.:
The consequences of drugs like fentanyl and xylazine are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from August 2021 to August 2022, drug poisonings claimed the lives of 107,735 Americans, with 66% of those deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. This represents a 30% increase compared to the previous year.
Combating the Crisis:
While the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine poses a significant public health threat, there are avenues to mitigate the dangers associated with these substances. Raising awareness about the risks, implementing preventive measures, and addressing the underlying causes of substance use disorders are essential steps to reduce harm and prevent drug-related deaths.
It is crucial to acknowledge the interconnection between mental health and substance use disorders, as these issues often go hand in hand. Increasing access to effective treatment options and comprehensive care that support individuals struggling with substance use disorders is paramount to ensuring successful recovery and preventing relapse.
The DEA’s warning serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of staying vigilant about the drugs we encounter and understanding their potential dangers. By fostering awareness, investing in treatment, conducting research, and promoting education, we can combat the drug epidemic in our nation and prevent further loss of life.