Bipartisan bill introduced to combat ‘Tranq’

The DEA says a drug called xylazine, used for horses, is causing a higher risk of fatalities in the ongoing opioid crisis.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers want law enforcement to have more power to control a drug meant for horses that is killing people.

Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a ‘Public Safety Alert’ about a drug called xylazine.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “It’s a deadly, skin-rotting zombie drug that’s bringing a horrific wave of overdoses across the country and is spreading further.”

On the street, it’s known as ‘Tranq,’ because veterinarians use it to tranquilize horses.

“When you label a drug “the zombie drug”, the individuals using it are zombies and nobody is going to come save a zombie,” said Sarah Laurel.

Over the last five years, Laurel has run a non-profit in Philadelphia called Savage Sisters to help people suffering from addiction.

“Individuals are much more lethargic. People can experience blackouts for several hours. And those blackouts can also last from 3 to 5 days. They appear to be unconscious,” Laurel said.

Now, officials are finding fentanyl mixed with Tranq which is creating a deadlier combination. Pennsylvania is just one of 48 states where the DEA says it has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures. In the agency’s newest public safety alert, seven percent of fentanyl pills and 23 percent of fentanyl powder sized by the DEA contained Tranq.

With Tranq spreading nationwide, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) has introduced a bill that adds the illegal use of xylazine for humans to federal regulations including the DEA’s list of scheduled drugs.

“The end of the day, it’s about giving law enforcement the tools they need to go after the traffickers so that we can keep people safe,” said Cortez Masto.

The bill is receiving bipartisan support and has the blessing of national veterinary groups because it has legitimate uses for them. Police organizations see this as another tool to combat the opioid epidemic. However, Laurel says lawmakers would be better served giving patients better access to treatment.

“Unfortunately, it’s to the point to a place now where people would rather rot on the street than go into medical care because they’re not being treated compassionately,” said Laurel.