Rising Menace: Xylazine use in NC linked to gruesome wounds & fatalities | Eastern North Carolina Now

By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
March 15, 2024

Medical experts joined law enforcement officials this week in urging the North Carolina legislature to add the drug xylazine to the list of controlled substances, asserting that while it may be beneficial as an animal tranquilizer it is having a devastating impact on individuals who consume it.

Xylazine is used by veterinarians but is dangerous and even deadly to humans, causing flesh wounds that can lead to amputations. It also can kill.

Most commonly, it is mixed with opioids like fentanyl and heroin by drug dealers to increase their profits. The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy last year declared xylazine an emerging threat.

“Xylazine depresses the heart rate, slows breathing, and can even stop both,” Jacksonville Police Captain Richard Kellum told legislators Wednesday on the House Select Committee on Substance Abuse.

Xylazine was first detected and linked to skin wounds in North Carolina in January 2021. Since then, the UNC Street Drug Analysis Lab has confirmed the presence of xylazine in 21 out of 48 counties through March of this year. A total of 41 percent of 516 samples of fentanyl contained xylazine, the lab said.

“Currently, we see xylazine nearly always with illicitly manufactured fentanyl,” the lab said in a memo presented to legislators.

Xylazine causes wounds that resemble chemical burns but can take months to heal and require regular dressing changes. Withdrawal from xylazine is more severe than opioid withdrawal, the lab said, and causes severe agitation and anxiety.

“The wounds that people have with xylazine are some of the most gruesome that I’ve seen in 20 years of doing this work and looking at skin wounds from different types of substances,” scientist Nabarun Dasgupta told legislators, according to NC Newsline. Dasgupta works at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center. “They can be treated if you catch them early. They occur beyond the site of injection..” The medical system, Dasgupta said, is not prepared to treat xylazine wounds.

“We have a lot of misunderstanding of how to handle these wounds at a medical level throughout the state,” Dasgupta said. “If we want people to live with dignity, to not become permanently disabled from a misinterpretation of a wound, we need a better job educating our medical providers and our surgeons on what xylazine wound treatment really is like.”

Last May, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a memo to doctors, clinics and hospitals warning that xylazine is “increasingly detected in the illicit drug supply and in drug overdoses.”

“While the full national scope of overdose deaths involving xylazine is unknown,” the department said, “research using overdose decedent toxicology reports shows xylazine-involved overdose deaths rose nearly 20-fold between 2015 and 2020 in all major US regions where xylazine testing was conducted.”

The problem, the department wrote, is that xylazine is not routinely included in “toxicology screens” and “therefore may be under-detected.” The drug has a rapid onset of one to two minutes, and its effects can last four to six hours.

Naloxone may not be enough to reverse a fentanyl-involved overdose if it’s mixed with xylazine, the CDC says.

“More than one dose of naloxone may be required to restore normal breathing,” the CDC says, “and in cases involving xylazine rescue breaths should be given.”

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, who attended the meeting on Wednesday said he was appalled and alarmed at the report he heard.

“It’s so disturbing,” said Rev. Creech. “Jesus said, ‘The thief [which is the Devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

Rev. Creech added, “This country is awash with substances meant to steal away the good in life, to kill, and destroy this country. We have opioids, stimulants, depressants, widespread use of marijuana, hallucinogens, synthetic drugs, inhalants, prescription drug abuse, and now added to the toxic mix, we have the brutal drug xylazine that wounds with grossly formed skin-eating ulcers at the injection site. Injection of impure xylazine or contaminated needles can lead to abscess formation, which is a collection of pus caused by bacterial infection in the damaged tissue. Healing can take a long time and leave a person’s body badly scarred. Worse still, Jacksonville’s Police Captain, explained how the death rate is climbing from this easily accessible drug meant for veterinarian use. Not only do lawmakers need to find a way to make xylazine harder to get, but our churches have to start earnestly sharing the good news of Christ, who said he could satisfy every empty place of the heart with such abundant life that people would neither feel the need for recreational drugs or want them.”


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