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A strong sedative intended to tranquil horses and cattle is making its way into Canada’s illicit drug supply and has been linked to an increase in human drug overdose deaths in Ontario.

The animal tranquilizer xylazine is already creating worry in the United States, and data from a drug-testing facility in Canada reveal it’s spreading north of the border.

Xylazine in sedatives

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Xylazine causes a profound state of drowsiness that impairs cardiovascular function and can cause vomiting, according to Nigel Caulkett, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Calgary.

He is concerned that patients are combining the potent medicine with opioids, which can result in more severe side effects, as per CBC News.

“There have been several accounts of individuals overdosing on xylazine, and in those circumstances, they frequently have to put the person on a respirator to get them with the crisis,” Caulkett said.

People who have died of opioid overdoses in Cook County are starting to find a veterinary sedative called xylazine in their systems, prompting fears that illicit narcotics are becoming even more hazardous.

From January 2017 to October 2021, Dr. Neeraj Chhabra, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Cook County Health, investigated through into Cook County health inspector’s office’s fentanyl-related fatality data, Xylazine appeared in tox screens infrequently at first, as per Chicago tribune.

However, towards the conclusion of the study, nearly one out of every nine fentanyl overdose patients had the substance in their system.

It is linked to the increasing number of deaths.

The tranquilizer was not connected to any deaths in Ontario in 2019, but was found in five opioid-related deaths the following year, according to the Office of the Chief Coroner.

In 2021, there was a significant increase.

Xylazine was found in 26 opioid-related deaths, and it played a direct role in three of these, along with other chemicals.

The presence of xylazine has increased significantly in Ontario, according to data from drug seizure samples given to Health Canada by law enforcement and public health organizations, from seven matches in 2019 to 414 last year.

In Alberta, matches declined somewhat, whereas in British Columbia, they varied.

According to a research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, xylazine was implicated in two-thirds of fatal drug overdoses in the northeastern United States in 2019.

According to a Philadelphia media story, patients who took xylazine had to have their fingers and toes amputated in certain situations.

Caulkett said he hasn’t observed any disease in his animal patients, but he did warn that recycling or sharing needles might cause infection, in addition, high dosages of the tranquilizer may cause “skin death.”

Also Read: Alert: US Drug Overdose Death Almost Tripled in Just 15 Years

The ‘Tranq Dope’

The appearance of xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer also known as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” has been one of the most concerning changes in the illicit drug market, according to Naburan Dasgupta, an epidemiologist and senior scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

When you look at each individual death record, the actual files and the actual chemical analysis, you see other peaks in there that are definitely not fentanyl and are these other contaminants that are in the drug supply, said Dasgupta, who has spent over two decades studying drug use and infectious diseases.

According to studies, xylazine was discovered to be implicated in one out of every three opioid-related death overdoses in the city by 2019.

In 2015, xylazine was implicated in only 0.36 percent of overdose deaths in ten locations around the country, according to a study published this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

However, by 2020, the substance has been connected to 6.7 percent of overdose deaths, with Philadelphia, Maryland, and Connecticut having the greatest percentages.

Fentanyl was also utilized in 98% of the xylazine-related fatalities in the research.

Related article: ALERT: Deaths from Synthetic Opioid Overdose Increased by Nearly 200 Percent


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