Overdose deaths involving street xylazine surged years earlier than reported

A new study reveals the surge in drug overdose deaths involving xylazine occurred years earlier than previously reported.

Key findings: The CDC reported that drug overdose deaths involving xylazine was 35 times higher in 2021 compared to the 2018 rate.
* Overdose deaths began escalating in 2018, rising to 627 in 2019, doubling to 1,499 in 2020, and doubling again to 3,468 in 2021.
* The Biden administration declared the street drug an “emergent” threat in the spring due to its increasing prevalence and resultant overdose deaths and bodily harm.

Trends and demographics: Men suffered xylazine-related deaths at twice the rate of women and Black men appeared particularly vulnerable.
* The distribution of illicit xylazine was initially concentrated in the mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast, but there has been a surge in the South and West.
* At the time data was collected for the report, the updated situation is unclear due to slow data collection and analysis.

Adding to the problem: Experts say xylazine is often combined with deadly substances like fentanyl and methamphetamines.
* A separate CDC report found that xylazine was detected in nearly 11% of all fentanyl-related overdoses by 2022.
* Last year saw a devastating new record of approximately 110,000 fatal overdoses nationwide, largely driven by fentanyl and complex street drug mixtures.

Recent reactions: Public health officials and policymakers are deeply concerned about the situation but face challenges due to outdated data.
* Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, highlights the need for timely data to implement effective interventions.
* Some in Congress are pushing to tighten regulations and criminal penalties for misusing xylazine.

View original article on NPR

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