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News > U.S.

California to Fight Xylazine Threat With Tougher Punishment

  • Californians suffering from the effects of drugs, 2023.

    Californians suffering from the effects of drugs, 2023. | Photo: X/ @TBifford

Published 29 November 2023

Xylazine is an animal sedative that has been linked to overdose deaths in recent years.

On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will propose new legislation to toughen penalties for illicit uses of Xylazine, known on the street as "tranq."


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"Tranq poses a unique and devastating challenge in our fight against the overdose epidemic," Newsom said and announced some additional actions to protect patients from the potential harm of the drug.

The California State Board of Pharmacy and the California Veterinary Medical Board issued an alert and reminder to licensees that Xylazine is subject to dangerous drugs laws, including highlighting that Board of Pharmacy licensees must keep records of dangerous drugs for at least three years.

The California Department of Public Health sent a letter to all facilities in the state, notifying the clinicians of the emergence of Xylazine in the U.S. illicit drug supply, and what actions clinicians should take to keep patients safe.

"Although California is not yet seeing tranq at the same rates as other parts of the country, this legislation will help the state stay ahead and curb dealers and traffickers, while we work to provide treatment and resources for those struggling with addiction and substance abuse," Newsom said.

Xylazine is an animal sedative approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but is not approved for use in humans. Xylazine has been increasingly found in the U.S. illegal drug supply and linked to overdose deaths in recent years. Not an opioid itself, it can be life-threatening and is especially dangerous when combined with opioids like fentanyl.

The side effects of Xylazine can be "catastrophic," such as bad lesions to the skin that may lead to amputations, said health experts. When a Xylazine overdose is suspected, experts recommend administering the opioid reversal agent naloxone.

Xylazine-related deaths are increasing drastically in every region across the United States, more than tripling from 2020 to 2021, according to data from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In April, the U.S. government designated fentanyl mixed with Xylazine as an emerging threat to the country. California cities began reporting Xylazine-related overdose deaths early this year. In February, San Francisco's medical examiner found Xylazine in the systems of four people who had recently died of overdoses.

Butte County found three cases In June and July by testing people in their rehabilitation program. Both Butte County and Sacramento County predicted that Xylazine would become more prevalent in the state.

"Ninety percent of their street drug supply is contaminated with Xylazine so it's just progressively marched across and now it's here in California," said Scott Kennelly, director of Butte County Behavioral Health.


Gavin Newsom
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