PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Known on the street as “tranq,” Xylazine has been linked to at least one overdose death in Multnomah County in 2022.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists Xylazine as a sedative used in veterinary practices and it is not approved for human use.
According to harm reduction experts, people might not even be aware they’re taking it.
In addition to increasing the risk of overdose when mixed with other drugs, continued use of Xylazine can also lead to flesh wounds, skin ulcers, abscesses and related complications. It can also cause some serious blood conditions.
Haven Wheelock — a harm reduction manager at Outside In, a nonprofit in Portland working with people who use drugs wherever they are in their journey or life — says one recent death does not make a crisis and she urges the public to continue to have compassion.
“I do think it’s something that public health should be monitoring for, that health care should be aware of and know that if they start seeing some of these wounds or complicated overdose events, they should know that that is a possibility. But I think one fatality does not necessarily indicate that it is the new thing sweeping our community,” said Wheelock.
She adds, however, that since it’s not prevalent in the community we don’t exactly know how to deal with it. Wheelock says we don’t have good withdrawal protocols and don’t yet know how to treat someone who is using “tranq” and wants to stop.
In the meantime, Wheelock says the best way to protect yourself is the intervention methods reduction specialists continue to share like testing your drugs, never using alone and carrying Naloxone.
The confirmed 2022 death is the second death in Multnomah County officials believe is linked to the drug. The first death occurred in the spring of 2021. The death reported in April occurred in September 2022, but wait times for toxicology reports make the process for identifying these deaths take longer.