Update: The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act was introduced into Congress in March 2023.
With illicit xylazine increasingly showing up in street drugs that pose grave risks to human users, government policymakers are discussing making it a controlled substance. The AVMA is closely engaged with the relevant congressional offices and committees, working to maintain veterinary access to this important drug.
A societal problem
Across the United States, drug traffickers are mixing xylazine with fentanyl and other narcotics. This combination of illicit street drugs is dangerously potent, resulting in an increased toll on human life. Because xylazine isn’t an opioid, its effects can’t be reversed with the opioid-fighting drug naloxone, which complicates efforts of first responders and emergency physicians.
The problem is gaining national attention, both in the news media and among lawmakers. High-profile articles have appeared recently in USA Today, the New York Times, Fox News, and numerous other media outlets.
Now, congressional lawmakers are considering scheduling xylazine as a controlled substance by legislation. We also understand that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has begun its internal process to schedule the drug. This change in status from a veterinary prescription drug to a drug scheduled under the federal Controlled Substances Act is intended to provide additional tools for law enforcement and bring stricter punishments to bear on the illicit market.
Policymakers understand that there currently isn’t significant xylazine diversion from veterinary channels; however scheduling xylazine to help control the illicit trade will impact use of the drug in veterinary medicine.
What is the AVMA doing to mitigate disruption?
Given both the scale of the opioid crisis and the severe consequences for people using narcotics containing xylazine, it is probable that Congress and the DEA will move ahead with plans to schedule xylazine as a controlled substance.
As policy discussions on the topic move forward, the AVMA is working very hard to lessen the impacts of such a decision on veterinary practice. The AVMA continues to engage with many congressional offices and committees, building on relationships and trust built over time.
The AVMA’s advocacy efforts on this issue include:
- Educating members of Congress and their staffs about the important, legitimate uses of xylazine across many areas of veterinary medicine, and emphasizing the lack of practical alternatives for use in cattle, horses, and many wildlife and zoo animal species.
- Working to prevent xylazine from being scheduled federally at a higher level than necessary.
- Advocating for a reasonable implementation timeframe to allow for manufacturers to transition to a scheduled status.
- Promoting provisions to allow dispensing of xylazine for chemical restraint in livestock, zoo, and wildlife species for use by appropriate personnel.
As the nation’s leading advocate for veterinary medicine, the AVMA ensures that veterinarians' voices are heard on important public policy issues that impact our profession. At the national level, AVMA works directly with members of Congress and federal agencies, developing strong working relationships that empower our profession to open doors and hold conversations on important policy topics, such as this one.
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