The Crackdown on Flesh-Rotting Tranq Dope Has Begun

Lawmakers in Congress and states are trying to combat tranq, a combination of fentanyl and xylazine that can lead to horrific wounds and amputations.
A drug user with wounds on his hands from tranq, a combination of fentanyl and xylazine. (Gilad Thaler/VICE News)

States are taking measures to crack down on tranq dope, the street drug that combines the animal tranquilizer xylazine with fentanyl or heroin and can cause users to develop horrific wounds and even require amputations. 

Ohio just became one of the first states to restrict xylazine, with Gov. Mike DeWine signing an emergency order making it a Schedule III controlled substance on  Wednesday. 


The order classifies xylazine as a drug with a moderate-to-low potential for physical and psychological dependence but makes it illegal for most people to possess it. Veterinarians can still administer xylazine but need to obtain a special license first. 

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In Florida, xylazine has been a Schedule I controlled substance since 2018, but just last week, Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a warning about tranq last week, noting that it can lead to “skin rotting lesions” that often require amputations. She said the state has seen hundreds of deaths involving xylazine. 

Illinois and New York have also introduced bills that would make xylazine a controlled substance in those states. 

Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduced the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act on Tuesday, to crack down on tranq. The House and Senate bill, sponsored by a number of senators and representatives, would make xylazine a Schedule III drug at the federal level, enable the DEA to track its entrance into the illicit drug market, require a report on the prevalence and risks of illicit xylazine use, and declare xylazine an emerging drug threat. 

“Our bipartisan bill would take important steps to combat the abuse of xylazine by giving law enforcement more authority to crack down on the illicit distribution of this drug, including by putting stiffer penalties on criminals who are spreading this drug to our communities,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, in a news release about the bill. “My colleagues on both sides of the aisle are seeing the impact of this deadly drug in their states.” 


The Food and Drug Administration has already passed a measure allowing its field agents to seize shipments of xylazine to make sure they’re being used for veterinary purposes. 

Part of the issue with tracking the spread of xylazine is that it’s not usually included on typical drug tests. But there are efforts to change that. San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has started testing people who’ve died of overdoses for xylazine. And xylazine test strips, which would allow drug users to test their drugs for the chemical, are now available. 

In a public health alert issued last week, the DEA there’s been a “sharp increase” in the trafficking of tranq and that it’s been found in at least 48 states. 

“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” said DEA Administrator Ann Milgram in the alert. 

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter. 

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