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Xylazine, Known On The Street As ‘Tranq”, Has Been Linked To Dozens Of Overdoses Across CNY, And 40 Overdoses In Onondaga County Just Last Week – Including At Least Two Suspected Deaths Last Month – Causing Fear Among Law Enforcement & Local Addiction Service Professionals – As The Drug Is Narcan Resistant

Schumer Wants Feds To Accelerate Import Crack Down And Better Track Down Dangerous Xylazine Plaguing CNY And Upstate NY – By Working With Local Law Enforcement And Boosting Federal Support To Combat Overdose Epidemic

Schumer: It’s Time We Cut Off The Illicit Supply Of This Zombie Drug To Keep CNY Safe 

Standing with Central NY law enforcement and health leaders, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed his three-pronged plan to combat the horrific rise in Xylazine, a deadly, skin-rotting zombie drug, also known as ‘Tranq,’ that is fueling a new wave of overdoses and deaths in Cortland, Onondaga, and across Central New York. Schumer explained that Upstate communities cannot fight the scourge of this dangerous drug on streets alone and is calling for a major boost in federal support to combat drug trafficking and this public health crisis.


First, Schumer said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to accelerate its operations to track down illicit sources of Xylazine that are plaguing Northeast, and Upstate New York in particular, to cut off supply that is flooding New York streets. Second, the senator detailed his new push to supercharge the federal COPS Hiring Program with nearly $537 million in new funds to help stop drug trafficking in its tracks. Third, Schumer said we need an all of the above approach to treat the overdose crisis, and said he is calling for new boosts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) appropriations, including grants that can be used to fund testing infrastructure for xylazine.


“Upstate New York is seeing a dramatic rise in Xylazine, a horrific skin rotting zombie drug, plaguing our streets, overwhelming law enforcement and causing serious concern because it is Narcan resistant, putting lives at greater risk. The feds need to accelerate their efforts to crack down on this drug illegally being shipped from overseas and unlawfully making its way onto the streets of Syracuse, Cortland County and communities across New York,” said Senator Schumer.  ““In far too many communities, including the Central New York, the pandemic has made opioid addiction and its health impacts worse, and Xylazine could make this growing problem even more deadly which is why we need the feds to step up now. We need an all-of-the-above approach: cutting off the flow of drugs, aid to our law enforcement, more interdiction, prevention, treatment and recovery for those suffering with addiction.”


“I appreciate Senator Schumer’s proactive approach to helping the people of Cortland here today,” said Cortland Mayor Scott Steve. “The uptick in Xylazine related overdoses is a concerning development in the national opioid crisis, which has hit our local communities hard. We are thankful to the Senator for hearing our cries for help and coming here today to take action.”


“I appreciate Senator Schumer for coming to Cortland County to help raise awareness about xylazine,” said Cortland County Sheriff Mark E. Helms. “I don’t think people realize quite how dangerous this drug is. Small communities like Cortland are often the last place the public expects to see a new drug take hold. Most of the public has never even heard of xylazine, but it’s important that they know it’s already here.”


“We want to save lives. We care about everyone in our Cortland community, said Cortland County Mental Health Department Director of Community Services Sharon MacDougall. “Xylazine presents such safety a risk; worsened and often fatal when mixed with other drugs.  Our four serious concerns are 1) Naloxone might not reverse a xylazine overdose, 2) normal toxicology screens might not find xylazine, 3) it can cause severe skin wounds causing other medical complications, and 4) can cause serious and unmanageable withdrawal symptoms. Efforts to prevent this drug entering our community is critical as we support those working towards substance use recovery." 


Schumer explained that although Xylazine is a sedative most commonly used as an animal tranquilizer by veterinarians, the deadly drug is now finding its way onto Upstate streets through illicit sources. He said that these dangerous drug deals are contaminating opioids like fentanyl, heroine, and cocaine with Xylazine, which has the ability to compound the effects of opioids and has led to countless overdoses and deaths in Upstate NY. The NYS DOH has confirmed the presence of Xylazine in the Onondaga County drug supply, and there have been recent anecdotal reports of a light shade of purple/lavender heroine laced with xylazine in Cortland County. During the first week of March alone, the city of Syracuse saw over 40 overdoses from Xylazine. Additionally, Xylazine is the currently the suspected cause of two deaths last week. According to the Cortland County Mental Health Department, out of the 11 overdose deaths reported in 2022, at least two involved xylazine.


The recent uptick in Xylazine related overdoses marks a dangerous new chapter in Central New York, a region that has already been hit hard by the epidemic of opioids, such as morphine, and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Per NYS DOH data, both Onondaga County and Cortland County are amongst the “worst-performing” counties in overdose deaths involving any opioids and in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (excluding methadone).


Schumer said the rapidly increasing presence of Xylazine on the streets of New York is inciting fear among local law enforcement officials and addiction service professionals, as Narcan does not have the ability to reverse a deep Xylazine sedation due to it not being an opioid. Schumer detailed his three-pronged push to combat the rise of this terrifying drug.


Schumer revealed that he has written a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates xylazine, to accelerate its operations to track down illicit sources that are plaguing the Northeast, especially Upstate New York. Schumer said the federal agency needs to crack down on these illicit sources to cut off the supply of Xylazine that’s flooding Central NY streets. The FDA announced last week that they are taking new action to restrict unlawful importation of xylazine, which often comes from overseas supplies like those in China, and Schumer said it is imperative that these actions help stop the flow reaching New York. The senator is also urging the FDA’s  “special team,” the Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to immediately begin work with New York State and local partners in impacted Upstate communities to investigate the new wave of Xylazine-related activities.


Schumer also detailed his formal push to supercharge the federal funds that help boost local law enforcement that are on the frontlines of this crisis through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program. Since its creation, the COPS Services Office has provided over $14 billion in community policing grants to state and local law enforcement to develop better policing strategies, hire more officers, and develop better community relations since the program was established by Congress in 1994. Specifically, the senator is pushing for a historic 66 percent increase to $537 million for the COPS program, as outlined in President Biden’s just released annual budget. This would allow state and local law enforcement offices to apply for awards of up to $4 million through the COPS Service Office’s Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program that gets grants to police to track down fentanyl distribution and stop drug trafficking, which is at the root of this crisis.


Finally, the senator said that we need “an all of the above approach to combat addiction” and highlighted new addiction resources in President Biden’s just revealed budget that CNY communities can tap into for assistance. The budget calls of over $10 billion (+$2.9 billion over FY23) for the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration, $387 million (+$190 million), for behavioral health workforce development programs, $165 million (+20 million) for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and more.  Specifically, Schumer said he is pushing for new boosts to SAMHSA appropriations that deliver on the President’s budget. Schumer said he will also be pushing increase the grant programs like the Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths grant program which local entities that deal with addiction support services can apply directly to the federal government to test for Xylazine and offer users exposed to Xylazine-laced opioids more targeted supports.


Schumer has a long history of fighting for additional resources to support law enforcement and boost addiction recovery services. Most recently, he secured $445 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) grants, an increase of $30 million from FY22. He secured $16 million for the COPS anti-methamphetamine program and $35 million for the COPS anti-heroin task force that help ensure the safety of local communities. In addition, Schumer led the fight to secure $44.9 billion to address opioid abuse in the most recent Omnibus, an increase of over $345 million over the previous year. That includes nearly $1.6 billion in State Opioid Response grants, $100 million more for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment program, $111 million for medication assisted treatment programs, $145 million for programs targeted towards rural communities and more.


A copy of Schumer’s letter to the FDA appears below:


Dear Dr. Califf:


The unlawful mixing of xylazine in illicit drugs poses a grave risk to Americas across the country. I applaud your agency for its prompt response to address this growing public health concern, and I urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work with all due haste with the Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as well as any necessary state and local partners to investigate and respond to this surge in illicit activities that are plaguing New York.


Across the country we are seeing concerning spikes in overdoses – and officials are beginning to notice similar, and troubling, connections to xylazine. Just last week, the city of Syracuse shared reports indicating more than 40 confirmed overdose cases in the downtown area with some connections to xylazine. The mixing of xylazine into other illicit drugs causes a number of dangers. As you know, while xylazine has received FDA-approval for its use in animals, the FDA has found xylazine to be unsafe for consumption in humans, posing serious and even life-threatening side effects. These risks include respiratory depression, hypotension, and severe, necrotic skin ulcerations at an individual’s injection site that may result in amputation. Little yet is understood about treating xylazine exposure in humans, and additional screening and analytical techniques are needed to detect xylazine in illicit drugs. With all this in mind, I am increasingly concerned for the health and safety of those individuals throughout New York who are unknowingly using illicit drugs that contain traces of xylazine.


As the threat of this growing crisis spreads across other communities, it is imperative that the FDA work efficiently to ensure local authorities and first responders understand the devastating effects of xylazine, and it is critical that the FDA begin to work with New York State and local law enforcement to investigate the new wave of xylazine-related activities, and put an end to this dangerous practice.


Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.