More Complications for Local Health Departments Fighting Opioid Crisis

Another drug emerges as local health departments are racing to stave off the opioid crisis death toll.

The Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) has published information on their website regarding the emergence and prevalence of the drug xylazine, also referred to as “tranq” or “zombie drug.” The OOCC page states that Narcan will not reverse a xylazine overdose. However, because xylazine is almost always found in combination with opioids, including fentanyl, naloxone should still be administered whenever an opioid-involved overdose is suspected.

The Baltimore Banner outlined in an article how local health departments play a role in discovering these dangerous trends. For instance, in Howard County, they host a regular needle exchange every Tuesday and Thursday via a mobile unit. This mobile unit has a “batch board” displaying the substances test labs are finding in the samples taken from syringes that are exchanged with drug users at local health departments. Now more than half contain xylazine.

From the article:

Xylazine slows breathing, which is already slowed by opioids, making drug use more life-threatening. The overdose antidote naloxone does not work on them, making warnings more urgent, officials said. Xylazine also causes skin ulcers that spread quickly and are hard to treat, sometimes leading to amputations of arms and legs once skin and muscle tissue begins to die.

Baltimore City Deputy Health Commissioner, Jennifer Martin, shared with the Baltimore Banner their plans to order xylazine test strips to help with detection.

Read about xylazine on OOCC website.

Read full article from the Baltimore Banner.