TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas – In a press conference held on Wednesday afternoon, officials in Travis County reported that a deadly drug, which has been increasingly threatening nationwide, is now linked to five deaths in the county.
“We have now identified five cases of deaths that we were investigating here in Travis County where xylazine was detected,” stated Travis County Medical Examiner, Dr. J. Keith Pinckard.
Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” is an animal sedative commonly used on horses. However, in humans, xylazine can intensify the effects of fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Administration has recently issued a warning about the sharp rise in drug trafficking involving both substances.
Dr. Pinckard emphasized, “It is produced very inexpensively in China. And, once again, it is not classified as a controlled substance.”
In all five cases of deaths related to xylazine in Travis County, officials disclosed that fentanyl and other drugs were also present. Nonetheless, the usage of tranq is particularly alarming because it can cause skin decay, unlike opioids, and there is currently no available way to reverse its effects.
“Xylazine is not an opioid, so it is not counteracted by Narcan. Furthermore, there is no existing agent to reverse the impacts of Xylazine,” explained Dr. Pinckard.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority, Dr. Desmar Walkes, warned, “We can anticipate more severe overdose incidents.”
These revelations emerge as the number of fentanyl-related deaths in Travis County continues to climb. Within the first five months of this year, 127 individuals died from fentanyl overdoses. If this trend persists, there may be an estimated 300 fentanyl-related deaths by the end of 2023, representing a 22% increase compared to last year.
Travis County Judge Andy Brown expressed concern, “We are aware that drugs in our community are still being mixed with fentanyl and could potentially be mixed with xylazine. We need to alert people now to save lives.”
To combat this crisis, fentanyl and xylazine test strips could be a transformative solution, aiming to detect these substances. Sen. John Cornyn is spearheading an initiative to legalize their usage at a federal level.
At a local level, Travis County plans to allocate $1.4 million of federal opioid settlement funds towards treatment and recovery services.
Phil Owen of Communities for Recovery stressed the importance of normalizing conversations surrounding drug use. Additionally, with the surge in xylazine abuse, families with children need to initiate these discussions at home.
“Now is the time to talk to your kids,” insisted Travis County Precinct 3 Commissioner Ann Howard. “We must not shy away from difficult conversations because the current consequences are too severe.”
Despite the growing prominence of xylazine, officials still emphasize the critical role of Narcan in increasing the chances of surviving a drug overdose. This life-saving medication can counteract the effects of opioids that may be present in an individual’s system. To obtain Narcan, individuals can call 311 for assistance.