INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers want to start collecting data on an animal tranquilizer sometimes mixed with illegal drugs.
Xylazine, sometimes called “tranq,” is a sedative used in animals like horses. But according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, people are now mixing it into illegal drugs like fentanyl, cocaine and heroin.
“If it’s a powdered drug, anybody can put anything they want in that, and they can change hands five, six, ten times before the user gets it,” said Michael Gannon, assistant special agent in charge at the DEA’s Indianapolis office.
Roughly 30 samples of drugs the DEA seized last year in Indiana tested positive for xylazine, Gannon said.
Because the drug is a tranquilizer and not an opioid, its effects cannot be reversed with naloxone, sometimes leading to deadly consequences.
“Xylazine can also cause low heart rate and low blood pressure as well, and then maybe with a very large dose could also cause somebody to have trouble with breathing,” said Dr. Blake Froberg, a toxicologist at IU Health.
Right now, the state of Indiana doesn’t collect any data on overdose deaths linked to xylazine. But lawmakers say that needs to change.
House Bill 1286 would require coroners to test for xylazine in all suspected overdose deaths.
Lawmakers would use that data to find out where the drug is being distributed and potentially craft future legislation, said State Rep. Jennifer Meltzer (R-Shelbyville), the bill’s author.
“We need to help our state agencies to work with those specific communities to address the problem that they have,” Meltzer said. “But if we see this is a statewide problem, then a statewide bill to address it would make more sense.”
Recovery advocates say having that kind of information is key.
“The better data we have, the more accurate data we have, the more likely it is we can give people the help when they need it,” said Chase Cotten, community director of The Willow Center in Brownsburg.
The bill passed in the House with unanimous support. It now heads to the Senate floor after receiving approval by a Senate committee Thursday.