San Diego

San Diego leaders address looming threat of new deadly street drug tranq

Xylazine is not an opioid, making Narcan ineffective in reversing a tranq overdose

NBC Universal, Inc.

Veterinarians have been using xylazine, commonly referred to as tranq, to sedate large animals since the early 1970s.

That drug is now being used on the streets as a recreational drug across the U.S.

The effects of the drug are severe.

“Well humans are so sensitive to these drugs, differently to animals and the big difference is breathing, so with dogs, cats and large animals with this class of drugs, they still breathe really well but humans, it can stop their breathing,” said Dr. Vanessa Hoard.

Xylazine is not an opioid, making Narcan ineffective in reversing a tranq overdose.

“The East Coast has been dealing with tranq for years. It’s slowly appearing in California. So far, we have had five confirmed overdoses in San Diego County that included tranq in them,” Councilmember Marni Von Wilpert said.

The illegal use of the drug is causing concern amongst local, state and federal officials.

“If it is anything like fentanyl, just a few years ago we only had a handful of fentanyl overdose cases and now we have hundreds. We hope that we don’t have something similar with tranq,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

To combat the rise, city leaders are taking action.

“I’m Chair of the California Big Cities Mayors Coalition. It’s a bipartisan coalition of the 13 largest cities in California. I can tell you that all the mayors in that group see that as a top priority. Right after homelessness, this is probably what we talk the most about because we are all starting to see it, fentanyl specifically but increasingly, tranq,” Mayor Gloria said.

Adding testing among overdose patients is one tactic the city is using to get a handle on how widespread the problem is in San Diego.

“Summer Stephan, our District Attorney, announced recently that she has asked the county medical examiner to start testing for tranq in overdose cases,” said Councilmember Von Wilpert.

Along with action by local leaders, the Biden administration recently announced action they’re taking to combat xylazine, which includes testing, data collection, prevention, supply reduction, scheduling and research.

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