Senator Chuck Schumer addresses uptick in xylazine a.k.a. 'tranq' overdoses in CNY
{p}New York State Sen. Chuck Schumer joined Central New York law enforcement and health leaders on the steps of Cortland’s City Hall Friday to address the rise of Xylazine. (Photo provided by the Office of Senator Chuck Schumer){/p}

New York State Sen. Chuck Schumer joined Central New York law enforcement and health leaders on the steps of Cortland’s City Hall Friday to address the rise of Xylazine.

Xylazine, also known as “Tranq” and described as a “zombie drug” is a veterinary tranquilizer often mixed with fentanyl to lengthen the opioid's euphoric effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, xylazine is a “central nervous system depressant that can cause drowsiness and amnesia and slow breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure to dangerously low levels.”

Taking opioids in combination with xylazine and other central nervous system depressants—like alcohol or benzodiazepines—increases the risk of life-threatening overdose.

A recent uptick in xylazine-related overdoses in Onondaga and Cortland counties is what brought Sen. Schumer to the region to reveal his plan to combat the drug.

“We learned to test for fentanyl which really helped law enforcement. We have to now do the same thing for xylazine,” Sen. Schumer remarked.

There were over 40 confirmed cases of xylazine overdoses in the City of Syracuse in the span of a week.

MORE: The city of Syracuse records more than 40 overdoses this week from new drug, xylazine

“These drugs and addictions don't care about your socioeconomic status, or your education status, or what color you are, or what religion you are. They affect and attack everyone,” Syracuse Police Department Police Chief Joe Cecile said at the press conference.

Cortland County is also starting to see the effects of the drug in their area according to Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms, “Cortland County has already seen this. We're one of these small places where everybody thinks it’s a little bit slower than everybody else, and we've already seen it.”

Out of the 11 overdose deaths reported in 2022, Cortland County reported two involved xylazine while recent anecdotal reports are coming out of a light shade of purple/lavender heroine laced with xylazine in the county.

Sen. Schumer said it will take a three-pronged approach: cutting supply, aiding local law enforcement and boosting addiction services.

This is an all-above approach. Stop it at the border, more help from federal law enforcement to local law enforcement here within the country, and testing, learning to test where the drug is.

He highlighted new addiction resources in President Biden’s just revealed budget that CNY communities can tap into for assistance.

The budget calls of over $10 billion for the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), $387 million for behavioral health workforce development programs, $165 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and more.

Specifically, Schumer said he is pushing for new boosts to SAMHSA appropriations that deliver on the President’s budget. Schumer said he will also be pushing increase the grant programs like the Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths grant program which local entities that deal with addiction support services can apply directly to the federal government to test for Xylazine and offer users exposed to Xylazine-laced opioids more targeted supports.

Medical professionals from Crouse and Upstate hospitals also attended the press conference to share their insights, saying they are worried about the uptick in xylazine overdose cases.

“The overdose of xylazine looks a lot like an opioid. It makes your pupils very small, it slows down the heart rate, slows down your breathing—it makes you very sedated,” Upstate Medical Toxicologist Dr. Sarah Mahonski said.

Tolani Ajagbe, the medical director of addiction treatment at Crouse, says he’s hopeful about the intervention plans, “We're worried about it, it's dangerous, but I'm very excited because the early intervention that we're seeing will help us overcome it.”

Despite the efforts of local government agencies, Sen. Schumer said the federal government still needs to get involved in this burgeoning issue, “The quicker you move, the better chance you have of stopping this and cutting it off before it tends to get too deep.”

Although Narcan is not necessarily effective when treating someone overdosing on xylazine, doctors still recommend using the opioid overdose treatment because the drug is often mixed with fentanyl, which responds to Narcan.

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