Fight ‘tranq’ every way possible
Gov. Josh Shapiro has a solid track record in the desperate struggle against the raging opioid epidemic.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic eclipsed opioids as the nation’s most pressing public health emergency, Shapiro played a significant role as attorney general in the traditional enforcement role. He also had roles in changing prescription and dispensing protocols for legally prescribed opioids, and in advocating far greater treatment access and prescription-free distribution of the antidote naloxone.
Shapiro also was one of the leaders in producing the nationwide settlement of litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, money from which has begun to flow into treatment programs.
'Tranq' named as 'emerging threat' across US
Narcan-resistant drug reaches York County: 'Nobody was prepared for this'
States restrict 'tranq,' animal sedative linked to overdoses
The epidemic no longer is rooted in prescription drug addiction, but in heroin and, more so, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Now, Shapiro is on the mark in outlawing an even more powerful drug. Xylazine is a nonopioid large-animal tranquilizer, commonly called “tranq,” that never has been approved for human use. Drug dealers cut xylazine into fentanyl, with awful effects even short of death. It can cause skin ulcers and sores and damage tissues to the point of requiring amputations.
From 2015 through 2020, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the percentage of all drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania involving xylazine increased from 2% to 26%.
Of the nation’s 100,000-plus opioid-caused deaths in 2022, more than 5,000 occurred in Pennsylvania. A major problem is that addicted users do not know how much fentanyl is cut into the other drugs that they use, or know how much xylazine is cut into fentanyl, heroin or both.
Shapiro’s designation of xylazine as a prohibited controlled substance is a sound step, but it is an enforcement measure, and the existing crisis shows that enforcement is inadequate to the task.
The governor needs to follow that up with even more aggressive measures to ensure the widest possible access to treatment. And the state House should reject the ill-considered Senate-passed measure to bar safe injection sites statewide. Those sites ensure addicted users of safe doses, but also serve as crucial portals to treatment.
Given the rising carnage, the state government has to do everything possible to reduce the toll.
— Scranton Times-Tribune (AP)