Tranq is an animal tranquilizer officially called Xylazine that is being laced into street narcotics like fentanyl.
“It is creating one of the deadliest drug threats our country has ever faced,” said Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks). “This powerful sedative is decimating neighborhoods throughout the Commonwealth.”
The bill package will be introduced during Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week in Pennsylvania to draw attention to the crisis and the crucial role awareness and education play in combatting this problem.
Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning. People who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine also can develop severe wounds, including necrosis — the rotting of human tissue — that may lead to amputation.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the American public of a sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.
To combat the spread of the drug, Marcell and four of her Republican House colleagues will introduce five bills to stem the drug’s usage and educate the public on this deadly epidemic
Marcell plans to introduce legislation that would require the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to engage in a public awareness campaign to educate the public about this growing threat.
Roughly half of the Commonwealth’s counties saw cases where illicit use of xylazine caused a death in 2021.
“Yet too few people are aware of this drug’s existence,” Marcell said. “Increased public awareness of the impact of the illicit use of xylazine can help the effort to protect our residents.”
Rep. Joe Hogan (R-Bucks) will sposor legislation that would formally require the Department of Health to actively monitor the introduction and growth of new drugs on the street. Information would be gathered from all available sources, including our federal partners, local departments of health, coroners and mortality review teams, and existing departmental advisory committees that include service providers who interact daily with those who are struggling with addiction.
“We need to re-structure our Commonwealth’s information-gathering apparatus to learn about new drugs entering the streets quickly,” Hogan said. “In the fight to help those with addictions, time lost results in lives lost.
Rep. Craig Williams’ (R-Delaware/Chester) legislation would establish a statewide opioid task force to disrupt drug trafficking.
Teen overdose deaths double in the past three years
Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network, there were 4,703 overdoses in the Commonwealth in 2022. Teen overdose deaths have doubled over the past three years. This increase in fatalities, which shows no signs of abating, can largely be attributed to the rise of the unlawful sale and usage of fentanyl, an opiate-based drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.
“We need to establish a statewide opioid task force that will serve as an intelligence-gathering and information-sharing resource for law enforcement agencies across this Commonwealth,” Williams said.
The task force would work and collaborate with prosecutors, county drug task forces, and state and local law enforcement agencies; collect and analyze drug overdose, arrest and drug seizure data to identify drug trafficking networks and discern which communities are being impacted by drug-related activity or violence; and direct resources to counties, communities and local law enforcement agencies when a need arises.
The Commonwealth recently entered into a historic settlement with manufacturers and distributors of opioids, which will result in over $1 billion being made available to state and local governments for opioid remediation. That money may be used for a wide spectrum of opioid remediation expenses, including treatment, recovery services and prevention.
Opioid Settlement Fund transparency
A bill sponsored by Rep. Andrew Kuzma (R-Allegheny/Washington), aims to improve Opioid Settlement Fund transparency.
Under the trust’s order, 85 percent of the settlement funds that come to Pennsylvania are distributed directly to counties and local governments. While this ensures funding for opioid treatment and abatement makes it into all of our communities across the state, it also means that funding may be used in a variety of different ways.
Included in this package is House Bill 1661, sponsored by Rep. Carl Metzgar (R-Somerset), to criminalize illicit possession of xylazine, with an exemption for legal veterinary use, but not make it a Schedule III controlled substance due to the risk that it will cease to be available in Pennsylvania for veterinarians to access.
Marcell will also introduce a resolution to recognize the week of Sept. 18-24 as Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week in Pennsylvania.
If you or anyone you know needs assistance with substance use, please call the Get Help Now Hotline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit https://www.pa.gov/guides/opioid-epidemic/