Attorney General James Co-Leads Bipartisan Coalition of 39 AGs to Protect Communities from the Dangers of Illicit Xylazine

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today co-led a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general in urging Congressional leadership to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act (H.R.1839/S.993), which would provide critical measures to combat the widespread illicit use and trafficking of xylazine and help prevent xylazine-related deaths. Today’s letter comes following a surge in overdose deaths nationwide related to xylazine, a potent veterinary medication that has been widely mixed with opioids like fentanyl and is easily obtainable online. Over the past few months, multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), have issued public alerts about the dangers of xylazine. Most recently, the White House declared fentanyl-adulterated or -associated xylazine (FAAX) an “emerging threat” to the nation. 

“New Yorkers, and all Americans, are under threat from yet another dangerous drug that is claiming lives at an alarming rate,” said Attorney General James. “When used correctly, xylazine is an important veterinary medication, but it was never meant to be used by humans, especially as an additive to fentanyl. The emergence of xylazine is the latest iteration of the opioid crisis that has claimed thousands of lives throughout the country. We know the grave dangers of these drugs and we must pass the federal Combating Illicit Xylazine Act to provide New York, and all states, with the tools we need to combat this emerging threat before it’s too late.”   

Xylazine is only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a veterinary medicine used to sedate and relieve pain in large animals. In humans, xylazine is known to depress breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and cause unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death. Xylazine is not an opioid, thus existing medications like naloxone are not effective in reversing the drug’s effects even if used with opioids.

According to the DEA, there was a dramatic increase in xylazine-related overdose deaths across the United States between 2020 and 2021, with an increase of 1,127 percent in the Southern region, 750 percent in the Western region, 516 percent in the Mideast region, and 103 percent in the Northeast region. Xylazine has also been linked to hundreds of deaths throughout New York state, with more than 180 fatal overdoses in Monroe County alone since 2019. According to the Office of the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor, New York City has also experienced an increase in xylazine-involved deaths with a jump of 36 percent between January and October of last year compared to the same time period in 2021. Additionally, in 2022, approximately 23 percent of fentanyl powder and seven percent of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine. To prevent the proliferation of FAAX in communities and keep people safe, Attorney General James and the coalition emphasized the importance of the measures outlined in the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, which includes:   

  • Classifying the illicit use of xylazine as a Schedule III drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act;  
  • Allowing the DEA to track the manufacturing and sales of xylazine to ensure that it is not diverted; 
  • Requiring the U.S. Attorney General, acting through the DEA and in coordination with the FDA Commissioner, to submit a report to Congress detailing the prevalence, risks, and recommendations on how to regulate the illicit use of xylazine; and  
  • Ensuring all salts, isomers, and other forms of xylazine are also covered when restricting the drug’s illicit use.

Joining Attorney General James in co-leading today’s letter are Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti. They are joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Today’s action is the latest in Attorney General James’ efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and keep New Yorkers safe. In March 2019, Attorney General James filed a historic lawsuit to hold various opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible for their roles in the crisis. Attorney General James has recovered more than $2.6 billion to support New York opioid abatement, treatment, and prevention efforts from companies including Teva Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Endo, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen. Attorney General James has also led multistate coalitions in reaching settlements for billions of dollars with CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart for their role in failing to properly regulate opioid prescriptions. Additionally, Attorney General James has also cracked down on dozens of drug trafficking rings, taken action against drug peddlers, and removed dangerous drugs out of New York communities.