The White House has labeled the use of the animal tranquilizer xylazine mixed with fentanyl “an emerging threat to the United States.”
According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “xylazine combined with fentanyl is being sold illicitly and is associated with significant and rapidly worsening negative health consequences, including fatal overdoses and severe morbidity.”
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of xylazine for animals—primarily horses and cattle—but not people. But the drug is playing a “growing role in overdose deaths in every region of the United States,” a White House press release states.
Xylazine acts as a sedative, muscle relaxer, and pain reliever, and according to a report from the Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration, users of the drug experience effects similar to what they would after taking opioids.
“A kilogram of xylazine powder can be purchased online from Chinese suppliers with common prices ranging from $6 [to] $20 per kilogram,” according to the DEA. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds.
Because of the low price, mixing xylazine with other drugs “may increase the profit for illicit drug traffickers, as its psychoactive effects allows them to reduce the amount of fentanyl or heroin used in a mixture,” the DEA report explains. Xylazine may extend the length of a drug high because of its similarities to opioids.
The DEA reports an increase in the number of incidents involving xylazine across the U.S. with the greatest increase in the South. From 2020 to 2021, the southern states experienced a 193% increase in incidents involving xylazine. The Midwest experienced the smallest increase at only 7%.
By declaring xylazine an “emerging threat,” the Biden administration is “being proactive in our approach to save lives and creating new tools for public health and public safety officials and communities across the nation,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “To parents, loved ones, community leaders, and those affected by xylazine use: I want you to know that help is on the way.”
The Biden administration will establish a working group that will create a national response plan to the increased use of xylazine. According to the White House, the plan will include “xylazine testing, treatment and supportive care protocols, comprehensive data systems (including information on drug sourcing and supply), strategies to reduce illicit supply of xylazine, and rapid research (such as work on the interactions between xylazine and fentanyl).”
The Biden administration’s declaration on xylazine further highlights the ongoing fentanyl crisis in America. A dose as small as 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly. In 2021, more than 107,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 70% of those deaths were due to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.
“Families throughout East Tennessee understand the pain and suffering caused by the opioid epidemic all too well,” said Rep. Diana Harshbarger, R-Tenn., told The Daily Signal. “If the Biden administration took the safety of our communities seriously, aggressive action would be taken to secure our Southern border immediately to stop these poisonous drugs from flowing into our country.”
Under the Biden administration, Customs and Border Protection reports a significant increase in the amount of fentanyl that smugglers are attempting to bring across the border illegally.
In 2020, the CBP seized 4,600 pounds of fentanyl. By 2021, that amount of fentanyl seized grew to 10,600 pounds, and in 2022, that number was 14,100 pounds. And just since the start of fiscal 2023 on Oct. 1, the CBP has seized 11,000 pounds of fentanyl.
Samantha Aschieris contributed to this report.
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