Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, is a new threat in the opioid epidemic: What we know

A new threat has emerged in the United States' illicit drug supply: an animal tranquilizer called xylazine. The drug is showing up in synthetic

opioids, particularly fentanyl, leading to more overdoses and alarming side effects, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control.  While most

jurisdictions don't routinely test for xylazine in postmortem toxicology, the Drug Enforcement Administration estimates xylazine was involved in at least 1,281 overdose deaths in

the Northeast and 1,423 in the South in 2021.  Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. Last week, ONDC director Dr.

Rahul Gupta hosted a listening session with local public health and safety leaders to discuss trends related to xylazine and efforts to address it, including plans for tracking,

substance use treatment, and harm reduction. Here’s what to know about the animal tranquilizer and why health officials are rushing to stop its spread.

What is xylazine? Is it a horse tranquilizer? Xylazine was created in the 1960s and is used in veterinary medicine to sedate animals during procedures or

diagnostic testing, according to the DEA. Xylazine is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human use. While it has been given

in the past for household pets, the sedative is now typically used for larger animals like horse, sheep and elk.  It's most commonly used in cattle as it's one

of the few sedatives studied in food animals, said Dr. Bernd Driessen, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.