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Naples, Florida

How the legal system is responding to the influx of xylazine

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2024 | Drug Charges

Florida and other states are battling a drug epidemic. Most people have heard of drugs like marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines, to name a few. However, a relatively new player, xylazine, is adding a new challenge for the legal system and law enforcement.

What is xylazine?

Xylazine is an analgesic, sedative and muscle relaxant that does not utilize opioids, and it is authorized for veterinary use in the United States. While it is not currently classified as a controlled substance, it is growing in popularity, leaving law enforcement and other agencies figuring out what to do. Possession of xylazine may not result in the same drug charges as illegal opioids such as heroin or cocaine. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has noted its increasing presence in illicit drug mixtures since the early 2000s. It is often combined with substances like cocaine, fentanyl and heroin.

Illegally sold for recreational use, xylazine is typically found in liquid form, either in syringes or vials. The solution is prepared at a concentration suitable for animal administration based on weight and size. Some online sources offer the substance in powder or liquid form with no connection to legitimate veterinary practices. With a price of around $20 per kilogram in the U.S., xylazine is attractive for adulterating illegal drugs due to its psychoactive effects, allowing dealers to stretch their supply of heroin or fentanyl.

The dangers of xylazine

Referred to as “tranq” on the street, its dangers include lesions leading to infections, reputational damage, blackouts or even death. Overdose reversal drugs for opioids are ineffective on individuals high on xylazine. Consequently, several states are considering legislation to classify xylazine as a controlled substance, aiming to impose stricter penalties for possession and distribution, as well as legalizing the sale of testing strips to ensure drug purity.

While some believe criminalizing xylazine will deter its use, others fear it will exacerbate stigma and isolation for users, making it harder for them to seek help. Only time will tell what the best approach will be.