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  • Writer's pictureTroy Riggs

A New Drug of Choice for Americans?

The importance of Governmental preparation

Unfortunately, Americans have an insatiable appetite for drugs. It seems like there is a new drug of choice for each decade:

1970s --- LSD, 1980s into the 1990s– Crack Cocaine, 2000s – Meth, 2010s – heroin, 2020s –Fentanyl, and now another drug, Xylazine (fact sheet below), is making its way through a few major cities. Community leaders, medical facilities, and public safety professionals need to be ready to address this threat.

Preparation is essential for future success. To help explain the importance of preparation, let me explain how the city of Indy dealt with the heroin epidemic.

In 2012, I was appointed by Major Ballard as the Public Safety Director. He directed me to help overcome some significant challenges facing the city’s largest departments—Police, Fire, and EMS. He also wanted these departments to utilize data to chart a future of safety for the hundreds of thousands of residents and guests of Indy.

During one of my first staff meetings, I asked about the abuse of heroin in the mid-west. I was told by two chiefs that they had not seen any issues. The EMS Chief, however, left and reviewed his data, surprisingly seeing a spike in overdoses. Upon further review, he determined that the recent overdose deaths were due to heroin. The Heroin Epidemic was beginning.

In Indianapolis, our chiefs immediately began distributing Narcan; our local congresswoman heard of our work and hosted a community meeting about the increase in abuse of heroin within the nation. Our non-profits and faith-based organizations jumped in to help. While we faced a significant growth in the use of heroin and overdoses, our preparation resulted in thousands of lives being saved. All because public safety was prepared, educated the public, and responded accordingly.

I share this story because Xylazine is entering our cities and communities. Preparation is essential for saving lives.

Information is still limited, but our team at Riggs Ventures has put together a quick overview to help better understand the troubling results of individuals utilizing this new drug. This drug is referred to as the Zombie Drug—XYLAZINE.

What to know about Xylazine:

· Xylazine (pronounced zai·luh·zeen) - may be referred to as “tranq”, “zombie drug”, or “tranq dope” when mixed with heroin or fentanyl.

· Is a non-opioid tranquilizer approved by the FDA for veterinary use as a sedative, anesthetic, muscle relaxant, and analgesic

· Not FDA-approved for human use – due to severe CNS depressant effects

· Frequently mixed with illicit drugs – namely fentanyl or heroin

· Linked to fatal overdoses when mixed with fentanyl

· Usually injected but may be swallowed or sniffed. Has a rapid onset within minutes and may last 8 hours

· FDA alert says Xylazine can cause

o Sedation

o Difficulty breathing

o Dangerously low blood pressure

o Slowed heart rate

o Wounds that become infected

o Severe withdrawal symptoms

o Death

· Presumed to be mixed with fentanyl to extend the effects of fentanyl as the “high” from fentanyl alone is a very short time

· Naloxone (Narcan) will not reverse an Xylazine overdose (namely its depressive impact on breathing) but should be given when an opioid-overdose is suspected since Xylazine is often found mixed with opioids

· First responders should consider Xylazine a contributor to suspected overdose when Narcan administration is ineffective

· Associated with skin and soft tissue wounds that are atypical and can spread rapidly and worsen quickly to the point of infection or ulceration. Wounds are commonly seen in legs and arms and sometimes away from the injection site.

· First emerged in the late 2000s in Philadelphia

· Due to its increasing role in overdose deaths when combined with fentanyl – Xylazine was named an emerging threat by Dr Gupta-White House – National Response Plan released in July 2023 (Xylazine’s growing role in overdose deaths nationwide prompts Administration to make this designation for the first time in U.S. history)

· The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that:

o Between 2020 and 2021, forensic laboratory identifications of xylazine

rose in all four U.S. census regions, most notably in the south (193%) and the west (112%).

o Xylazine-positive overdose deaths increased by 1,127% in the south, 750% in the west, more than 500% in the Midwest, and more than 100% in the northeast.

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