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Xylazine-related deaths have risen in the South, according to ADH

The Arkansas Department of Health reports that mixtures of the drug with opioids or stimulants have become more prevalent in the past years.

ARKANSAS, USA — After a report from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) released a warning about a widespread thread of xylazine, a veterinary, non-opioid tranquilizer, appearing in mixtures of illegal drugs.

In the South, xylazine related deaths rose by 1,127% between 2021 and 2022. The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory reports the drug being mixed with others like fentanyl and heroin. The DEA says drug traffickers use these mixtures to intensify the opioid high for longer periods of time. 

Xylazine-mixed drugs can be recognized by the street names "zombie drug," "Tranq," "sleep cut," and "Philly dope." A mixture of xylazine with stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine is known as "speedball."

DEA Asst. Special Agent Jarod Harper reports that xylazine has appeared in drugs like fentanyl and heroin as a cutting agent and adulterant. 

"It increases respiratory depression and can actually cause a very severe skin infection and sometimes results in the amputation of arms and legs," said Harper 

The biggest concern is it prolongs the opioid high and it's much cheaper to buy. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports 107,735 Americans died between August 2020 and August 2021 from drug poisoning, with 66% of those deaths involving opioids like fentanyl.

"The concern is that every major city has it so just like fentanyl, it's just a matter of time. Of course, it's something we put our money, heart, soul and time into - combatting that with Narcan. But the fact that there's something now that these same opioid addicts are taking that is a non-opioid drug, you can't combat it with Narcan," said Jordan Ellington with the Matt Adams Foundation.

According to the ADH, xylazine could also cause damage to organs, muscles and nerves due to its effects on blood flow. 

"Chronic xylazine exposure use can also be considered by healthcare providers if patients present with severe skin wounds, ulcers, or infection," the ADH adds. 

This is could be cause by xylazine since prolonged periods of unresponsiveness due to the mixture of xylazine and opioids can lead to reduced body temperature or heat-related injuries if these substances are abused in an outdoor setting.

In our area, the DEA says it’s still seeing drug overdoses at an alarming rate. In the meantime, if you witness someone overdosing on drugs, call 911 and administer Narcan, if you have it and you'll be protected by the Good Samaritan Law

The DEA also says it’s working to get xylazine scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act to prevent people from buying it online.



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