There’s a new threat on Mississippi streets and its effects far outweigh anything seen before.
Xylazine, a potent large animal sedative approved for veterinary use some 50 years ago, is now part of the state’s illicit drug mix and is often being added to fentanyl. Also known as tranq or tranq dope, it is frequently called the “zombie drug” because of what it does to the human body.
Xylazine is also marketed legally as a veterinary drug under the names Rompun, Anased, Sedazine, and Chanazine, according to Wikipedia. It’s known on the street as “tranq,” and fentanyl mixed with Xylazine may be known in some areas as “sleep-cut”, “zombie drug” and “tranq dope.”
Potent enough to knock people out for hours, xylazine reduces blood circulation, slows breathing and leaves horrific, open sores on the skin that, if left untreated, can lead to necrosis and amputation. What’s worse, it doesn’t respond to opioid-reversing medications, leaving users more likely to die before traditional CPR can be administered.
“Xylazine makes fentanyl even more dangerous than it already is,” said Col. Steven Maxwell, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. “This drug is a serious threat to Mississippians and requires an aggressive response.”
Because of this, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, emergency medicine doctors and other health care professionals are issuing warnings about the sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine and the dangers to communities across the country.
Here in Mississippi, the Mississippi State Department of Health issued an official health alert to all physicians, hospitals, emergency rooms and other health care providers in late May regarding clinical management considerations and patient care. Experts still recommend administering naloxone if someone might be suffering from an opioid overdose, but also keeping a CPR mask with them at all times should rescue breaths be needed.
The number of xylazine-positive fatal overdoses increased in the Southern U.S. by 1,127% between 2020 and 2021, according to an October 2022 DEA report. Further, the DEA noted that the South also saw a 193% increase in xylazine detection among illicit drugs tested during this same timeframe. Both represent the highest increases across all U.S. regions.
“Mississippians are already dying from these toxic xylazine combinations,” said Maxwell. “While we may not have the sheer numbers like Atlanta, Philadelphia or other larger metropolitan areas, it is here and it is on our streets. It’s affecting our families, friends and neighbors at a time when overdose deaths continue to reach record highs. We must act now to save lives.”
Bipartisan legislation known as the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act has been introduced in Congress to make xylazine a federally controlled substance. If passed, this will enable authorities to arrest those illegally possessing or trafficking it. Some states are following and applauding this push.
“We realize veterinarians have been using this drug responsibly for years and need it in their practices,” said Maxwell, “but we’ve got to find a way to allow them to continue using it while ensuring that the DEA and local law enforcement have the support they need to keep it out of the wrong hands.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association supports the congressional effort.
Make Mississippi ODFree is a multiagency statewide partnership focused on overdose data collection and overdose prevention and intervention. Administered by the Mississippi State Department of Health in partnership with the Mississippi Public Health Institute, the program is supported by a federal grant initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program’s purpose, called Overdose Data to Action (OD2A), is to collect comprehensive and timely data on nonfatal and fatal overdoses to inform OD prevention and response efforts nationwide.
Learn more at https://odfree.org.