ROANOKE, Va. – This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help and subscribe to our Solutionaries channel on youtube.
In August, we’re looking at solutions to the drug problems our communities are facing.
A new, deadly drug is here in the Roanoke Valley. Xylazine, which is also called tranq.
10 News told you about it before, when in July, federal officials called for more testing and research on the powerful animal sedative that’s spreading through the nation’s illicit drug supply, but they stopped short of recommending new restrictions on the veterinary medication.
The White House declared xylazine-laced fentanyl an “emerging threat” in April and called for a national strategy to combat its use. Xylazine, sometimes known as tranq, can cause breathing and heart rates to fall to dangerous levels when used in humans. When injected it can cause large open sores and infections, sometimes leading to amputation.
But now there’s a specific warning for our region because Xylazine is being found in the Roanoke Valley.
The Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition gives out Xylazine and fentanyl test strips and says they’ve been coming back positive. It can make the high last longer, but there are huge, deadly risks.
“The problem with xylazine is that it doesn’t respond to Narcan. It is not an opioid, and therefore, the opioid reversal medication Narcan doesn’t work on it. And so when you have this adulteration in the product, we’re seeing more overdoses because of that and unfortunately, more fatal overdoses because of that,” said Danny Clawson, the Executive Director of the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition.
Clawson says the test strips give drug users knowledge to know what they’re using, so they can use safer and stay alive, hoping that eventually, they can get the help they need. But Clawson said if xylazine doesn’t kill you, it can cause other problems.
“It produces really terrible wounds that can get incredibly infected and even lead to amputation. So we’ve been doing a lot of work with our participants to educate them on abscesses,” said Clawson.
The Virginia Department of Health says they’re monitoring tranq and know its an issue, but it’s not tracked in the medical examiner’s reports the way that cases involving other drugs like cocaine or heroin are tracked.
A VDH spokesperson tells 10 News they don’t have data to share currently because the medical examiner’s office just started testing for xylazine within the last month. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia has recently added xylazine to their lab panels and VDH expects to have better statistics going forward.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has also been updated with new information from VDH, after the initial story was published.)
This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help and subscribe to our Solutionaries channel on youtube.