The cultural pull not to stigmatize anything or anyone is misplaced, purchasing a momentary façade of autonomy at the cost of untold harm and suffering.
The White House on April 12 declared xylazine-laced fentanyl an “emerging threat.” Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” is a horse tranquilizer that is being found in combination with fentanyl across the United States.
The New York Times brought national attention to the new drug in an article from January 2023 that chronicled its spread on the East Coast. This week, Fix Homelessness covered its appearance in Seattle.
Untested in humans, xylazine is a non-opiate sedative that forms a potentially lethal cocktail when combined with the already deadly opioid fentanyl. Notably, xylazine does not respond to naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, which is used to reverse fentanyl overdoses.
Xylazine-laced fentanyl can cause open wounds to form on the body. Wounds can become so severely infected that amputation is necessary. The flesh-eating effect of xylazine has caused some to describe its victims as reminiscent of “Walking Dead” zombies.
In recent years, drug policy in major cities has shifted away from mandatory treatment and toward decriminalization and harm reduction. New York City operates two “safe injection sites,” illegal under federal law, where medical professionals give clean needles to drug users, test street drugs for substances like xylazine, and observe users to prevent overdose.