Health Care

Bipartisan bill aims to crack down on ‘tranq’

A homeless addict holds pieces of fentanyl in Los Angeles
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
A homeless addict holds pieces of fentanyl in Los Angeles, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.

Bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation Tuesday to crack down on the illegal use of a veterinary tranquilizer that is increasingly being found in fentanyl and other drugs.

Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” is an easily accessible veterinary drug approved for use in animals as a sedative and pain reliever. But it is also being used by drug dealers as a low-cost cutting agent in illicit drugs.

The legislation would list xylazine as a Schedule III controlled substance on the five-tiered scale, meaning it has a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” Other Schedule III drugs include ketamine and anabolic steroids. Marijuana is a schedule I drug, defined as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The bill would also enable theDrug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to track the manufacturing of xylazine to ensure it is not diverted to the illicit market.

Veterinarians legitimately use drug products containing xylazine to sedate large animals such as horses and deer, but it is not safe for use in people and may cause serious and life-threatening side effects.

Among the side effects of tranq are ulcers that crop up on various parts of the body, which sometimes lead to the loss of fingers or limbs. Xylazine is not an opioid, so the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone does not work on it.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it would restrict imports of xylazine, meaning shipments of the animal tranquilizer face heightened FDA scrutiny.

The DEA issued a safety alert earlier this month and said its laboratory system found the tranquilizer in about 23 percent of seized fentanyl powder and 7 percent of fentanyl pills last year.

“Drug traffickers are going to great lengths to pad their profits with dangerous drugs like tranq, and we need to empower law enforcement to crack down on its spread in our communities,” said Senator Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), one of the lead Senate co-sponsors. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure the DEA and local law enforcement have the tools they need to get xylazine off our streets while protecting its important use as a veterinary tranquilizer.”

Other Senate sponsors include Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). The House bill is backed by lawmakers including Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Ken Buck (R- Colo.) and August Pfluger (R-Texas).

Tags DEA drug overdoses fentanyl tranq

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