HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Tuesday morning, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced his administration’s plan to temporarily schedule xylazine, a powerful animal sedative used by veterinarians, to the list of schedule III drugs under Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act.
The presence of Xylazine in illicit drugs, like fentanyl, is often unknown to an individual. According to the administration, xylazine contributed to 90 overdose deaths in 2017. In 2021, it contributed to 575 overdose deaths across 30 counties, an increase of over 600 percent. In 2021, the City of Philadelphia reported that 90 percent of street opioid samples contained xylazine.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the use of xylazine, or “tranq,” can cause severe skin wounds and patches of dead and rotting tissue that easily become infected and, if left untreated, may lead to amputation.
“Xylazine is a powerful animal sedative that should never be ingested by humans and is compounding our fight against the opioid crisis – and today, my Administration is taking action to keep it out of our communities and protect Pennsylvanians. The steps we are taking today will help ensure this dangerous drug can’t be diverted from legitimate sources to the drug dealers harming our communities, while preserving its important use on animals,” said Gov. Shapiro.
According to the administration, the scheduling of xylazine will require manufacturers and distributors to verify that a practitioner, like a veterinarian, is licensed and authorized to receive a controlled substance. The scheduling also allows for more checks in an ordering system. For example, ensuring the proper address and a verified signature from the practitioner upon delivery. Practitioners could also be required to minimize theft and diversion, including accurate recordkeeping, limiting staff access to the product, and ensuring it’s stored in a secure location.
“Xylazine has a real purpose for veterinarians, but is being abused by drug dealers and harming those suffering from substance use disorder. My Administration is committed to helping Pennsylvanians get the treatment they need, and we will work with our partners in law enforcement to get these drugs out of our communities and bring the drug dealers poisoning our communities to justice,” said Shapiro.
Opioid-reversers like Naloxone cannot reverse the effects of xylazine. However, the administration says Naloxone should still be administered if there are signs of an opioid overdose. If xylazine was involved, the person may still appear sedated after their breathing has returned.
The administration will also submit a notice of intent to schedule nitazines, a class of synthetic opioids, as a schedule I drug. The notices will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday, April 22, 2023.
For substance use treatment or recovery resources, call the toll-free PA Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357).