By Octavio Guzmán/Paula Escalada Medrano |
Philadelphia (USA) (EFE).- Cheap, powerful and with devastating effects on people, this is xylazine, an animal sedative used as a drug in the United States, which the authorities have just targeted, with the partial prohibition of its importation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just banned the importation of medicines containing this substance, “a growing public health concern.”
It may only be imported for veterinary use, as it is used to sedate large animals such as horses and deer. When used in people, the authorities warn, it can cause serious and potentially fatal side effects.
Xylazine is, however, increasingly found in illicit drugs, mixed with fentanyl for example, and is very frequently detected in people who die from overdoses.
“This action is intended to prevent the drug from entering the US market for illicit purposes,” the FDA said in a news release Tuesday.
Xylazine will now be subject to increased scrutiny by the FDA, whose staff may stop a shipment of products if their legitimate veterinary use is not properly established.
In the opinion of the professor of Pharmaceutical Practice at the University of Connecticut, Michael White, “xylazine is a substance that worries the authorities more and more because it is very often added to other illicit products,” he told EFE.
The expert believes the import ban is correct, although as seen with fentanyl, which enters illegally across the border with Mexico, “it is incredibly difficult to prevent the products from reaching willing buyers.”
A problem in Kensington, Philadelphia
Although it is not as publicized as fentanyl – a substance that according to the authorities is widespread and causes 100,000 deaths a year in the country – this drug is widespread in neighborhoods such as Kensington, in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), considered one of the largest markets Open air drug open from the east coast.
In its streets, as EFE verified, its havoc can be observed: dozens of people lying on the sidewalks, taking drugs in plain sight, bent over by the effects of the drug or walking like zombies through streets full of syringes thrown on the ground.
All this while authorities and civil organizations are constantly distributing new syringes to prevent the transmission of diseases, as well as overdose kits such as Narcan, which is administered through the nose and reverses the potentially deadly effects of excessive drug use.
An antidote that does not work, however, for xylazine, as Michael White recalls. “Naloxone (the substance that Narcan contains) cannot reverse the effects of xylazine, so it may not completely reverse a multidrug overdose containing this substance,” he warns.
Although there is no clear official data on its lethal consequences, this substance has been found in 26% of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania, 19% in Maryland and 10% in Connecticut and is taken both alone and in combination with other products.
The street name for xylazine is “tranq”, and xylazine-cut fentanyl is called “tranq dope”. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it has been spreading throughout the country for a decade.
White explains that it is a central nervous system depressant that can cause sedation and euphoria, unconsciousness, and amnesia. Although not an opioid, it can dangerously slow breathing and lower heart rate and blood pressure in higher doses, or when combined with alcohol or other sedatives.
It is also used, emphasizes the expert, to commit physical or sexual assaults, since “it can incapacitate the user for a period of time and can cause some amnesia in people who do not realize what happened to them.”
One of the most visible consequences of xylazine, the FDA warns, is “serious skin wounds, patches of dead and decaying tissue that become easily infected and, if left untreated, can lead to amputation.”
These wounds can develop in areas of the body far from where they are syringed and can become life-threatening.
“We will continue to use all the tools at our disposal and partner with the DEA and other federal, state and local agencies and stakeholders to stop these illegal activities and protect public health,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, after the announcement of the partial ban on imports.