Sadly, overdose deaths are not all that uncommon as the U.S. continues to face an opioid epidemic. A wave of substance abuse deaths from a variety of drugs has swept over the nation and it hasn’t shown any signs of letting up. One of the challenges that come with battling this issue is the ever-changing nature of the drugs in question. On Long Island, a new combination of drugs – one drug familiar in the world of overdoses already (fentanyl), and the other, not so much (lethal xylazine) – has proven to be extremely deadly.
The abuse of any controlled substance can be risky and lead to severe illness or death, but this mix is proving to be one of the worst. Fentanyl is the more familiar piece in this combination of drugs. This opioid has been wreaking havoc across the country, with an addictive grip on a meaningful portion of the population. On its own, fentanyl is certainly worthy of attention in order to rescue those who fall into its clutches.
In this case, however, it’s the use of fentanyl along with a drug called xylazine that is particularly troublesome. As is often the case with drugs of abuse, lethal xylazine has a legitimate medical use – in this instance, it is used as a veterinary drug. However, when blended with fentanyl and misused in humans, xylazine has been leading to overdose deaths in Long Island (as well as in other locations).
Autopsies performed on individuals who died from overdoses on Long Island revealed that 20 had xylazine in their system just in 2022 alone. Of course, that’s just the cases that were caught, so it’s likely that even more lives were lost to this dangerous combination. Law enforcement officials fear that the death toll will be greater in the year ahead.
This problem has become so notable that it has led to pleas for government help to intervene and put a stop to the ongoing damage. A senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, requested help from the federal government to bring resources to the area that could work toward making it more difficult for the combo to make its way into the hands of already vulnerable, addicted people.
Another issue that is faced by first responders and other medical professionals when dealing with cases of fentanyl and xylazine is that the standard treatment options for opioids don’t work on xylazine. It is not a drug in the opioid category, so the damage that it does to the body is not stopped when a treatment like Narcan is administered. If an individual overdoses, the opioid antagonist won’t help.
Bringing federal assistance to Long Island and the surrounding area may be a good first step toward dealing with this problem, but the issue will sadly persist in one form or another for the time being. Dealing with the fentanyl problem across the country is going to take a massive effort that includes work done by the government all the way down to steps taken by individuals to address the issue. Hopefully, a brighter future awaits as these issues become more known and more hard work goes into solving the problem.
On Long Island, xylazine and fentanyl a lethal combo
Fentanyl is even deadlier when mixed with xylazine (or ‘tranq’): What you must know now
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