Biden-Harris Administration Designates Fentanyl Combined with Xylazine as an Emerging Threat to the United States
Published April 12, 2023
Xylazine’s growing role in overdose deaths nationwide prompts Administration to make this designation for the first time in U.S. history
ATLANTA, GA – Today, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), has officially designated fentanyl adulterated or associated with xylazine as an emerging threat to the United States. Xylazine is a non-opioid tranquilizer approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for veterinary use but not human use. This designation comes after careful review of the impact of xylazine on the opioid crisis, including its growing role in overdose deaths in every region of the United States.
“As a physician, I am deeply troubled about the devastating impact of the fentanyl-xylazine combination, and as President Biden’s drug policy advisor, I am immensely concerned about what this threat means for the Nation,” said Dr. Gupta. “That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration is using this designation authority for the first time since it passed Congress in 2018. By declaring xylazine combined with fentanyl as an emerging threat, we are being proactive in our approach to save lives and creating new tools for public health and public safety officials and communities across the Nation. To parents, loved ones, community leaders, and those affected by xylazine use: I want you to know that help is on the way.”
ONDCP is required to monitor novel and evolving patterns of substance use, establish criteria for determining when a substance or combination of substances should be designated an emerging threat, and declare emerging threats when the Director deems appropriate based on the criteria. These criteria were published earlier this year, and focus on geographic presence of an emerging threat, as well as impact measured by metrics such as overdoses in the course of a year.
Director Gupta is making this designation because xylazine combined with fentanyl is being sold illicitly and is associated with significant and rapidly worsening negative health consequences, including fatal overdoses and severe morbidity.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that:
Between 2020 and 2021, forensic laboratory identifications of xylazine rose in all four U.S. census regions, most notably in the south (193%) and the west (112%).
Xylazine-positive overdose deaths increased by 1,127% in the south, 750% in the west, more than 500% in the Midwest, and more than 100% in the northeast.