Approaching a van that distributes supplies for safer drug use in Greenfield, Massachusetts, a man named Kyle noticed an alert about xylazine.
“Xylazine?” he asked, sounding out the unfamiliar word. “Tell me more.”
A street-outreach team from Tapestry Health Systems delivered what’s becoming a routine warning. Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer. It’s not approved for humans but is showing up in about half the drug samples that Tapestry Health tests in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. It’s appearing mostly in the illegal fentanyl supply but also in cocaine.
“The past week, we’ve all been just racking our brains — like, ‘What is going on?’” Kyle said. “Because if we cook it up and we smoke it, we’re falling asleep after.”
(NPR and KHN are using only first names in this article for people who use illegal drugs.)
Kyle’s deep sleep could also have been triggered by fentanyl, but Kyle said one of his buddies used a test strip to check for the opioid and none was detected.
Xylazine, which is also known as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” surged first in some areas of Puerto Rico and then in Philadelphia, where it was found in 91% of opioid samples in the most recent reporting period. Data from January to mid-June shows that xylazine was in 28% of drug samples te …