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Police, Cortez Masto warn of threat from deadly new drug

Updated August 28, 2023 - 2:59 pm

Las Vegas police joined a Nevada lawmaker on Monday to discuss what authorities said is a deadly new strain of fentanyl laced with xylazine.

The drug, also known as “tranq,” is a nonopioid sedative with no prescribed use in humans. Authorities are uncovering pressed pills with fentanyl and xylazine in Las Vegas, according to Metropolitan Police Department Deputy Chief Nicholas Farese and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

“Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer that drug traffickers have been adding to fentanyl to increase the potency of the drug and to boost their profits,” Cortez Masto said during the news conference Monday. “Because it is an animal tranquilizer that veterinarians use for a legitimate purpose, it is not illegal for it to be used illicitly.”

Cortez Masto has proposed legislation that would make the drug a Scheduled III controlled substance, declare it an “emerging drug threat” and allow the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to track it’s manufacturing, according to the bill text.

The penalty for sale or distribution of xylazine would be a fine up to $500,000 and a maximum of 10 years in jail for first-time offenders.

Earlier this year, the DEA issued a warning about an increase of fentanyl mixed with xylazine. About one-quarter of the fentanyl powder and 7 percent of the pills seized by the agency last year were laced with xylazine.

Cortez Masto said that like fentanyl, law enforcement are seeing the drug come over the border from Mexico in a pressed pill.

The Centers for Disease Control said xylazine can result in depressed breathing and heart rate, sedation, dangerously low blood pressure and heart rate, unconsciousness and death.

Farese said that since 2020, four people have overdosed on xylazine-laced drugs in Clark County. While Narcan can revert the toxic effects of fentanyl, Farese said there is no substance to combat xylazine-laced fentanyl.

Metro has seized 136 pounds of fentanyl so far this year, Farese said, and more than 200 people have overdosed in the valley on fentanyl so far this year.

“Each pill we removed off the streets could be a life saved,” he said.

Farese urged residents not to take pills they were not prescribed, never to buy pills off the street and to seek help from medical professionals for substance addictions. People with information on traffickers can contact Metro at 702-385-5555

Cortez Masto’s proposed bill, titled the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, was sponsored by several other senators and representatives, and introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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