Salt Lake City, Utah – Advocates and law enforcement officials in Utah are warning people about a new trend in drugs that has been showing up on the streets. While drugs mixed with other substances are not a new practice, there is growing concern about the substance xylazine, which has been detected in some drugs being sold. Xylazine is a veterinary medicine that is used as a horse tranquilizer and can be extremely sedating for humans. When mixed with opioids, it can cause a person to blackout, and the opioid-reversal drug naloxone does not work on it. Dr. Jennifer Plumb, who runs Utah Naloxone, is warning people about the risks associated with the drug and is urging people to be careful about what they are taking.
According to Brian Besser, Senior Advisor for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), xylazine has been a problem in the northeastern United States and is now making its way to Utah. In 2022, the DEA’s Salt Lake District office confirmed that it had five seizures of drugs containing xylazine. DEA officials have noted that they see it most often in fentanyl, which is a drug they are currently focused on. Xylazine is not a controlled substance and therefore does not fall under the jurisdiction of the DEA. The state crime lab does not specifically test for it either.
The DEA is cautioning the public against buying drugs on the street, as dealers often add substances like xylazine or even change the colors of pills to make them more appealing in an already oversaturated market. Besser says that drug trafficking networks go out of their way to make their products more appealing, constantly changing the “Baskin Robbins” assortment of flavors. The FDA announced this week that it is taking action to restrict the unlawful entry of xylazine into the country.
Jenn Harris, who is now in recovery, said that when she was actively using drugs, she often didn’t know what she was putting in her body. She emphasized that it’s not uncommon for drugs to be mixed with other things, but the latest substance showing up in drugs has people paying attention. Harris now works in harm reduction and homeless outreach at Odyssey House, where she connects with people who are using these drugs. She wants to educate and give people an opportunity to make a different choice or at least be safe.
In Utah, the medical examiner’s office confirms that there have only been two deaths certified due to xylazine in the last ten years. However, the Statewide Information and Analysis Center reports that it has not identified any specific incidents involving xylazine in Utah, but this may be due to difficulties in testing for it. The DEA has launched a campaign to learn more about the fentanyl crisis and fake pills. The “One Pill Can Kill” website provides more information on this topic.
In conclusion, while drug use is a growing concern, the trend of adding substances like xylazine to drugs is becoming more dangerous. The DEA is urging people to be mindful and cautious when buying drugs on the street, as it can be difficult to know exactly what is in them. Officials are working to educate the public about the risks associated with these drugs and hope that more resources will become available to help people know what they are actually taking.