Santa Clara Co. records 1st death linked to dangerous animal tranquilizer being mixed with opioids

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Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Santa Clara Co. confirms 1st death linked to 'tranq'
Santa Clara County confirms 1st death linked to xylazine or 'tranq', animal tranquilizer being increasingly mixed with fentanyl, heroin.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Authorities on Monday confirmed the first death in Santa Clara County attributed to a dangerous animal tranquilizer that is increasingly mixed with opioids like fentanyl and heroin.

A 36-year-old man who was found unresponsive in San Jose and died in late February tested positive for xylazine, known as "tranq," after postmortem tests, county officials said.

VIDEO: Powerful animal tranquillizer can make fentanyl even deadlier, DEA says

The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning about a powerful animal tranquilizer being mixed into fentanyl making it even more deadly.

"We know that we now have the first death in Santa Clara County in which Xylazine and fentanyl were both found," said Dr. Akanksha Vaidya, an assistant public health officer with Santa Clara County.

Health care leaders say mixing "tranq" into opioids is a trend growing across the country and now locally.

"Xylazine really affects the nervous system, the main thing it does is that it makes people really, really sleepy," Vaidya said. "This can affect your breathing, and it can slow down your breathing and your heart rate. The other thing that we have seen with xylazine is that it can cause really severe skin wounds."

The news of the first xylazine death in Santa Clara County comes as county leaders are making a push to make naloxone also known as Narcan more widely available.

It's used to treat overdoses.

Though it may not be able to completely reverse the effects of a xylazine overdose, doctors say administering it should be the first step.

"Because xylazine is often mixed with heroin and, or fentanyl, and naloxone is going to reverse the effects of those drugs," Vaidya said.

VIDEO: DEA warns drug used to sedate large animals possibly hitting SF streets amid fentanyl crisis

There's an effort to increase awareness about a powerful tranquilizer used to sedate animals from a becoming a deadly street drug in San Francisco.

The overdose-reversing drug has recently been provided to most school districts in Santa Clara County.

Now, county supervisors Otto Lee and Cindy Chavez want to get it in county libraries.

"We also won't stop there," Chavez said. "We want to make sure it's available on public transportation in bars and restaurants and music venues."

The board of supervisors is set to vote on that Tuesday.

In the meantime, county health officials continue to push to get the word out about the growing xylazine trend, not just to the general public but to healthcare providers.

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ABC7's Injecting Hope looks at an innovative program in Canada that is saving lives by giving users a safe place to get high.

"The testing for xylazine is not widely available yet. In Santa Clara County, our coroner is testing for it. That's how we detected it here," Vaidya said. "Over time, hopefully, testing becomes more widely available but until then, I think it's really important for the public and providers to know that xylazine could be present in the street drug supply and to just stay informed so that they can, help other people protect themselves."

According to the DEA, the drug can cause large, severe wounds at an injection site that can lead to amputation.

Anyone who has a wound from using the drug should clean and cover the wound to avoid infection and see a doctor immediately.

Anyone seeking treatment for substance use can contact their primary care doctor or phone the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Call Center at 1-800-704-0900, 24 hours a day, for services in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Mandarin.

Bay City News Service contributed to this article.

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