(NewsNation) — A bipartisan bill intended to crack down on the drug xylazine, better known as “tranq,” has been introduced in the House and Senate.
The legislation aims to classify xylazine as a controlled substance, helping law enforcement tackle its illegal use.
The drug’s street moniker is “zombie drug,” as its side effects include rotting skin ulcers, respiratory failure and limb amputations. Used as a sedative in animals, tranq is now also showing up in the powerful opioid fentanyl and other street drugs.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer sounded the alarm, calling for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to step in and fund a special team to help curb the spread of the deadly drug.
“It’s a deadly skin-rotting zombie drug that evil drug dealers are mixing into fentanyl, with heroin and other drugs,” Schumer said in a press conference. “Xylazine is dangerous, it’s deadly and it’s here.”
The proposed legislation would also allow the DEA to track down exactly where xylazine is being manufactured, in order to stop it from saturating American streets,
Dr. Kavita Babu, chief of toxicology at University of Massachusetts medical school, told NewsNation she sees patients overdosing on tranq on a daily basis, and many brought to the emergency room don’t even realize their drugs are laced with the substance.
“We saw that when we we saw our communities make the transition from heroin to fentanyl, that our our community of drug users may not even realize that this medication is commonly available is adulterating the drugs that they’re using,” said Babu
And because it’s not an opioid, the overdose reversal drug Naloxone doesn’t work on it.
The bill is the start of the solution, but the real change will happen when efforts are focused on harm reduction, according to Babu.
Xylazine and fentanyl mixtures have been seized in 48 of the 50 states, DEA officials report.
Babu told NewsNation one way to mitigate the crisis is the use of test strips. At $2 a piece, tranq test strips will soon be widely available.