SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Marin County health officials have found a strong animal tranquilizer in wastewater, prompting concern about drug use.
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Authorities started testing wastewater after the COVID-19 pandemic, but have now expanded the equipment to detect drugs.
"Tranq is the street name for xylazine, which is a veterinary tranquilizer, and it's concerning that it's showing up in wastewater samples," said UCLA epidemiologist Dr. Chelsea Shover. "Marin County and the Bay Area, that's another indication of it being here in a more meaningful way."
Shover explained that tranq is highly dangerous and cannot be treated.
"Xylazine is not an opioid," she said. "It's a different kind of sedative, so the opioid reversal medication naloxone works on the opioids that are on board, but it doesn't work on xylazine."
Tranq leaves bad sores where the user injects the drug, sometimes leading to amputation if necrosis occurs. It is known casually as the "zombie drug" or the "flesh-eating drug."
"I know that in San Francisco they've had a few fatal overdoses involving tranq, or xylazine, but seeing it in other kinds of instances it's just another indication that it's here," Shover told KCBS Radio.
"Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier," warned DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. "DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States. The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine."
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