Molecular model of xylazine.

What are drug policies to help people who use xylazine to be safer?

We need public education and to pass policies at the local, state, and federal level that prioritize health approaches.

There are many ways we can help people who use xylazine to be safer. This includes public education and policies we can pass at the local, state, and federal level.

  • Expand access to lifesaving overdose prevention services.
    • This includes the overdose reversal drug naloxone, drug checking tools like xylazine and fentanyl test strips, and syringe service programs.
    • Authorize overdose prevention centers (OPC) on the state and local level.
  • Expand and protect 911 Good Samaritan laws.
  • Expand methadone and buprenorphine access to treat opioid use disorder since most people exposed to xylazine are using opioid drugs.
  • Expand addiction services and social supports, including evidence-based treatment and recovery services.
  • Provide fact-based public education about xylazine for people who may be accidentally exposed to xylazine-adulterated drugs.
  • Oppose attempts to schedule xylazine as a controlled substance and oppose calls for criminal penalties for xylazine use, possession, and distribution. Scheduling drugs can make it more difficult for researchers to study these drugs and develop effective treatments for the people who use them. Criminalization discourages individuals from seeking health services.
  • Fund more research to better understand xylazine’s effects on the human body and how to prevent and manage xylazine-related wounds. We also need more research on how to manage xylazine intoxication, how to reverse its effects, and how to provide treatment to people who may be experiencing xylazine withdrawal.
  • Provide training for medical and emergency staff on how to appropriately treat xylazine-related wounds and how to care for patients who may be experiencing xylazine withdrawal.

Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) recommends a comprehensive, health-based response to the overdose crisis to keep people safe and healthy. There is growing public acceptance of the fact that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one.

Unfortunately, some elected officials and members of law enforcement continue to call for draconian criminal policies to drive up support for policies that hurt people instead of helping them.

When it comes to xylazine and other substances emerging in the illicit drug supply, we must ensure that any new laws take a health approach. This includes decriminalizing drugs, safer supply, and overdose prevention centers.

Reviewed and updated by Jules Netherland, PhD, and Dr. Sheila P. Vakharia on 05/20/2023.

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