Surge in Animal Tranquilizer Use Fuels Overdose Crisis in Edmonton


Edmonton authorities have reported a surge in the use of a potent animal tranquilizer, xylazine, among substance users in the city. The tranquilizer, typically employed as an anesthetic and sedative for horses, has become an unlikely addition to the city’s drug supply, according to the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).

The EPS Drug and Gang Enforcement Unit’s Staff Sgt. David Paton highlighted the diversity of adulterants found in their city’s narcotics supply, including the aforementioned xylazine. These cutting agents have introduced unpredictable variants of fentanyl into circulation, posing unforeseen hazards to users, Paton warned.

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Community officials in Red Deer have raised similar alarms, having noted a spike in emergency responses to drug-related overdoses. This escalating trend, local RCMP believe, is tied to the prevalence of the equine tranquilizer within illicit substances consumed in the Alberta city.

Mixing such a potent additive with street drugs introduces a heightened risk of accidental overdose that could lead to fatal consequences, the RCMP cautioned in a public statement.

Marliss Taylor, Director of Streetworks and Health Services at Edmonton’s Boyle Street Community Services, revealed that the trend of incorporating xylazine with drugs is not novel. However, without a comprehensive drug analysis system, it’s challenging to discern the quantity of the horse tranquilizer being utilized.

The current drug landscape, Taylor suggested, comprises a range of substances mixed together in unknown proportions. Furthermore, she inferred that the xylazine levels found in Edmonton may have been higher in 2019 compared to the present.

Addressing the threat, Taylor mentioned that street teams have reported users taking up to an hour or more to regain consciousness following an overdose reversed with the antidote naloxone. Emphasizing the need for immediate cognition following these close calls, Taylor explained that swift response ensures users can communicate effectively with responders to ensure their safety.

Despite the alarming 223 calls in a single week in late July, breaking records of opioid-related emergencies in Edmonton, Taylor expressed doubt that xylazine contributes noticeably to these figures. The drug supply, she argued, is such a dangerous amalgamation of substances that the presence or absence of xylazine is probably inconsequential to the rising wave of emergencies.

As per the latest state data, Alberta has witnessed over 800 deaths related to drug poisonings within the first five months of 2023. Shockingly, 96 per cent of these fatalities are suspected to involve opioids. The provincial Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has yet to comment on this worrisome trend.