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AG Marshall Asks Medical Community To Make Public Health Board Aware Of Equine Tranquilizer, Synthetic Substances Discovered In Street Drugs

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HOOVER – Attorney General Steve Marshall spoke Friday at an event for health care providers focused on the opioid crisis.

The event, held at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge, included several experts in the field of medicine.

As the opioid crisis continues, a new deadly drug similar to an opioid has found its way into Alabama that does not respond to antidotes such as NARCAN.

Xylazine is a sedative and pain reliever approved for veterinary use in large animals, such as horses, but it is not safe or effective in humans. It is illegal to use on humans, even in a hospital setting. The drug has been blamed for the deaths of 39 people in Jefferson County this year and many more across the country.

When asked about the drug, Marshall said he wasn’t familiar with it, but he planned to see if there was a problem and, if so, what could be done about it. He said he will speak with forensic science experts in the state to find out more.

Marshall said synthetic drugs are another problem the state has faced for years. For example, after the state made Kratom illegal several years ago, manufacturers of illegal drugs came up with new mixtures to get away with selling the drugs.

“As we see these synthetics emerge, and we do, the number one thing is that we potentially have the ability for the Department of Public Health to schedule so quickly, to make it controlled so that we have the ability to make that sale illegal to make,” Marshall said. “The other would be to change our criminal statutes to include that drug.”

Marshall said chemists can sometimes skirt the law to make what they sell “technically legal.”

Dr. Julia Boothe, the president of the Alabama State Medical Association, said the good news is that opioid prescriptions have decreased in Alabama over the past 10 years, and dosage strengths have been lowered. However, she said education is critical when it comes to street drugs.

“It’s going to continue,” Boothe said. “And there’s also not a reversal drug for everything that’s been invented out there. Again, that’s why we say our main goal is to have naloxone, have it available, just take medication that you’re prescribed, and just take what you get from an apothecary, because you don’t know what you’re getting.”

As for xylasin, Boothe said that most times people don’t know it’s mixed with the street drug they think they’re taking.

“They just get their usual drug from their dealer, and now suddenly something is mixed in or packaged,” she said. “So, people have to understand the risks, and no one is looking at you outside of that doctor-patient relationship.”

Marshall said it is imperative to act quickly against any deadly drugs that are killing people in the state.

“If the medical community can make the public health board aware, that’s the fastest option to get something done,” Marshall explained.

Marshall said local law enforcement and district attorneys also work together to make changes when new drugs are discovered.

Xylazine causes similar side effects to fentanyl, heroin, and other illegal drugs.

You can read more about the drug and what the Jefferson County Coroner has to say about it here.

Email erica.thomas@1819news.com to connect with the author of this story, or to comment.

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