The House Human Services Committee recently passed legislation sponsored by state Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks) to require the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to engage in a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of human use of xylazine.
“Over the past several years, law enforcement officers and public health professionals have detected an increase in the prevalence of the illicit use of xylazine, an animal tranquilizer — or ‘tranq’ — in street drugs used in the commonwealth,” said Marcell. “In fact, about half of all Pennsylvania counties saw cases where illicit use of xylazine caused a death in 2021. Worse, 90 percent of the opioids sampled by the City of Philadelphia showed xylazine in 2021.
“Yet too few people are aware of this drug’s existence. Increased public awareness of the impact of the illicit use of xylazine can help the effort to protect our residents.”
Under House Bill 1690, DDAP would enter into partnerships with healthcare providers, community-based health centers and hospitals to educate Pennsylvanians on the dangers of human use of xylazine.
It also requires the creation of informational materials for distribution to Pennsylvanians on the effects of xylazine on the human body, how to discuss the dangers with family and friends, and other information deemed necessary by DDAP to educate the public on this topic.
Xylazine, designed as a horse tranquilizer, is being used as a cutting agent for heroin and fentanyl used by humans. The drug’s users tend to get wounds that do not readily heal.
As its illicit use has grown, it has attracted the attention of media and public health officials. It made national news when the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy warned the nation of its dangerous use.
Xylazine-positive overdose deaths have increased tenfold in the southern U.S. from 2020-21, sevenfold in the western U.S. and fivefold in the midwest. The U.S. Department of Health has recently temporarily scheduled xylazine as a controlled substance.
House Bill 1690 now moves to the whole House for a vote.