By: Mark Diaz
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The New Drug Tranq and Why It Is So Dangerous
Some states have relaxed specific laws regarding drug possession, but possessing illegal narcotics is still considered a severe crime in Texas. A new, dangerous development in the drug market is xylazine or tranq, which this article highlights. If you have questions about a recent charge or case involving xylazine or another drug, our Texas drug possession lawyer at Mark Diaz & Associates can assist you.
What Is Xylazine or Tranq?
In recent months, the drug xylazine or tranq has become a focal point for Texas law enforcement and the rest of the country. This drug is not approved for human use by the FDA and is not yet listed as an illegal drug under state or federal criminal statutes (this may change soon).
Xylazine is often mixed with fentanyl and a variety of other illegal drugs that enhance and prolong the drug high. It is being seen by law enforcement more often in illicit drug distribution channels, but many drug users may not know tranq has been added to the drug they purchased.
The FDA is aware of this new drug’s various street names, which are also known as tranq dope, sleep cut, zombie drug, and Philly dope. One problem that makes the drug so dangerous is that it is so potent. It also can lead to human flesh developing rotting sores, which is why ‘zombie drug’ is one of its nicknames. The drug can cause the user to feel calm and elated, which is why tranquilizers are often used for anxiety, sleep disorders, and panic attacks.
Veterinarians have used xylazine to care for small and large animals for at least 50 years. It is recognized as a safe, effective sedative for dogs, cats, horses, cattle, deer, and elk to make them calm and easier to handle. It is considered a critically important drug in the veterinary world, and it needs to be available to care for animals in Texas.
This would not be a problem, but xylazine has become popular in Texas as a street drug, and the police are trying to stop it from being available in the illegal drug market. In just this year, the FDA announced its intention to take action in an effort to restrict the unlawful entry of xylazine’s active pharmaceutical ingredients and the finished dosage form into the United States to address this growing health concern. This has become a serious issue for the state’s vets because they need the drug in their practices to use in a legitimate fashion.
Texas Health Officials Warn of Tranq Drug Combination
The danger of xylazine or tranq can be seen because the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a health advisory in March 2023 notifying medical providers of reports that the drug is often mixed with many illegal drugs in Texas. The police have found xylazine or tranq mixed in the illicit fentanyl supply in the western region of Texas. It also has been combined with Xanax and various recreational drugs, contributing to at least four deaths.
Xylazine has an intense sedative effect and can make the opioid high last longer. It also can cause unconsciousness, slowed breathing and heart rate, and low blood pressure. Tranq can also cause organ damage because of lowered blood volume. Long-term drug use can cause severe sores and ulcers that can rot skin tissue and cause infections. The drug is also dangerous because it can sedate a person so that they can be injured in an accident, such as a fall, or from exposure to extreme cold or heat.
Unfortunately, xylazine is not an opioid, so its narcotic effects cannot be reversed with Narcan. But because fentanyl and other opioids are so popular in the illegal drug trade, Texas clinicians recommend treating possible overdoses with Narcan anyway. If the patient shows no response, they should suspect exposure to xylazine and offer appropriate care. Doctors should also consider long-term exposure to xylazine as a potential diagnosis for patients with unexplained skin ulcers.
NBC States That Tranq Overdose Deaths Have Soared
NBC recently noted in a report that the number of overdose deaths involving tranq has soared around the country in recent years. Two federal studies quoted by the news agency found that men were more likely to use opioids with xylazine and to pass away from overdoses than women.
According to CDC data, the percentage of deadly overdoses where tranq was detected increased by 275% from 3% to 10% from January 2019 to June 2022. It also found that the drug is being laced into fentanyl, which led to 70,600 overdose fatalities in 2021. In March 2023, the DEA warned about drug combinations that had xylazine in it and that the DEA had confiscated mixtures of xylazine and fentanyl in 48 US states.
These findings came as drug overdose deaths continue to rise in America. A CDC study in 2022 found the country had seen a 30% spike in drug overdoses between 2019 and 2020, which was the largest spike in history. Most of those deaths were because of fentanyl.
Congress Moves to Make Xylazine a Controlled Substance
It is evident in both Texas and the US overall that xylazine is a severe threat, prompting Congress to consider adding xylazine to the controlled substance schedule. Bipartisan legislation introduced in June 2023 in the House and Senate indicates concerns over xylazine. One sponsor, Sen. Catherine Cortez (D-NV) said that drug traffickers are using tranq to increase their profits, and Congress should empower law enforcement to crack down on the spread of the drug.
The potential legislation would make tranq a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This category on the five-level ladder is for drugs with lower potential chances for psychological or physical dependence. If approved, xylazine would be a level below opioids, such as fentanyl.
The proposed law would also require drug manufacturers to send reports on the distribution and production of xylazine for the veterinary market to the DEA. The agency would be able to ensure that the drug was not being diverted to the illegal drug market. Other proponents of the bill say it would combat xylazine abuse by giving state and federal law enforcement more tools and power to crack down on illegal use and production of tranq, such as putting harsher penalties on traffickers and dealers who spread the drug.
The bill was endorsed by the National Association of Police Organizations and several other law enforcement bodies and is likely to strongly affect the lowest members of the drug trafficking trade and the users. Bill sponsors have noted that drug users should not be overly punished for using xylazine because many do not even know they are taking the drug; it is often mixed into other drugs they purchase.
The police are highly supportive of adding tranq to the Controlled Substances Act. One letter to the Senate from the Fraternal Order of Police said that xylazine is worsening the drug crisis in the US and Texas. It is estimated that 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills taken by DEA in 2022 had xylazine. The organization said adding the drug to the drug schedule would still allow it to be accessed in veterinary medicine but would also let state and federal law enforcement fight its illegal use on the street.
What Is a Schedule III Drug?
Xylazine could be added to the federal drug schedule as a Schedule III drug. This means that the drug has the potential for abuse, but less than for drugs in Schedule I and II. Also, xylazine does have an accepted medical use in veterinary medicine, and abuse of the drug could lead to low or moderate physical dependence and possibly high psychological dependence.
At the federal level, a Schedule III drug conviction for a first offense may result in up to one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $1,000. A second offense could bring two years in jail and a $2,500 fine, while a subsequent conviction may result in three years and a $5,000 fine.
However, with xylazine, most charges at the state or federal level will not be simply drug possession because it is often mixed with other illegal drugs. Many xylazine arrests in Texas recently have been for more than drug possession. Additional potential charges that could be involved with xylazine are drug trafficking, money laundering, and conspiracy.
Talk To Our Texas Drug Possession Lawyer Now
If the legislation pending in the US Congress is passed into law, it will alter how xylazine cases are treated in federal courts. The state of Texas will likely do the same thing, and tranq will soon be considered an illegal drug under state law. Even today, xylazine can be part of a felony drug arrest in Texas for trafficking or possession because it is often mixed with other illegal drugs.
Overall, adding xylazine to the drug schedule in Texas is probably inevitable, and the drug could be the basis for serious felony drug charges.
If you were recently charged with a crime related to xylazine, you need the assistance of a skilled attorney to reduce the chances of severe consequences. Contact our Texas drug possession lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates for help at (409) 515-6170 today.