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Senators introduce bill requiring State Department to track deadly street drug

A pair of senators introduced a bill Wednesday that would require the State Department to track xylazine in its annual report.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the legislation, which would require the State Department to include data on xylazine, nicknamed “tranq,” in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy (INCSR) Report. The report is meant to record efforts on countering the international drug trade; it already includes data on fentanyl, cocaine and heroin.

Xylazine is an easily accessible veterinary drug that is approved for animals as a sedative and pain reliever. It is not labeled as a controlled substance in the U.S. but has been used illegally as a low-cost cutting agent in opioids like fentanyl to prolong a user’s high. It is not approved for use in humans. When injected, it can cause people to stop breathing and develop skin lesions.

“The U.S. must use all its counternarcotics tools to combat the threat posed by tranq, especially given its alarming presence in America’s fentanyl drug crisis,” Cruz said in a statement. “This means mobilizing our resources at the State Department, like the INCSR report, to hold other countries accountable for their role in producing, selling, and moving tranq into the U.S.”

The lawmakers noted that because xylazine is not an opioid, Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses, cannot reverse the effects of it. The CDC still recommends that Narcan be given to those who may be experiencing an overdose related to xylazine because it is often used with opioids like fentanyl.

According to CDC data, xylazine was detected in nearly 3,000 drug overdose deaths in 2022.

Kaine urged his colleagues to support the legislation in his statement and described it as a “commonsense step to address the threat posed by xylazine.”

The Biden administration labeled fentanyl laced with xylazine as an “emerging threat” last year and later launched a national response plan to combat deaths associated with the drug. As part of its plan, Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta said the administration will work to develop new xylazine tests and will make them available for the first time.

President Biden signed a separate piece of legislation, introduced by Cruz and Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), last year to advance research on the drug and take steps to limit its spread.

A White House spokesperson told the Hill in a statement that the administration looks forward to working with “bipartisan Members of Congress on this important issue,” adding that Biden has made addressing the “overdose epidemic a key pillar” of his agenda.

“Xylazine mixed with fentanyl poses a serious threat to our nation’s health and security,” the spokesperson said. “That’s exactly why nearly one year ago Dr. Gupta used an executive designation authority for the first time in U.S. history to designate fentanyl combined with xylazine as an emerging threat to the United States.”

“Since then, the Administration has been working tirelessly to address this threat head-on, including creating a National Response Plan, and launching coordinated efforts across all of government to ensure we are using every lever we have to protect public health and public safety, and save lives,” they added.

A State Department spokesperson said the department does not comment on pending legislation.