The Nēwo-Yōtina Friendship Centre’s drug testing site in Regina reported two instances of detecting xylazine in fentanyl samples this past October.
Xylazine, a powerful tranquilizer drug used in veterinary medicine to sedate large animals, has been increasingly found in samples sold as fentanyl as an adulterant across Canada and U.S. When mixed with fentanyl, xylazine increases the risk of fatal overdose due to its sedative effects on the nervous system, which cannot be reversed using naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdose. Furthermore, injecting drug mixtures containing xylazine can also lead to the development of severe wounds, including necrosis, which can result in amputation.
Subsequently, Regina police issued a public safety alert to residents about the effects of consuming illicit drugs. “It is believed this substance originated from a larger batch, which is likely to be circulating in Regina,” stated the alert. Moreover, the Regina police noted that the drug may have come from a larger batch that is likely circulating in Regina, and that it was purple in colour.
The results of a report released by Health Canada’s drug analysis service state that one case of xylazine was detected from 2012 to 2020 in Saskatchewan. However, in 2021 and 2022, there were 11 cases of xylazine detected in drug samples. Finally, the number of xylazine identifications in Canada went up from five in 2018 to 1,350 in 2022.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people who are putting this inside of the drugs aren’t sure how much to put in. They are either putting too much fentanyl or too much xylazine or vice-versa,” said the Nēwo-Yōtina Friendship Centre’s drug testing site harm reduction manager Emile Gariepy in his interview with Global News. “[Concerns with xylazine are] EMS or the police trying to get somebody back with naloxone and it not working. We’ll be seeing a lot more rises in deaths, and a lot more rises in overdoses as well too,” Gariepy said. “It will just be more of a challenge to try to save people’s lives.”
Furthermore, Gariepy also noted that most fentanyl samples tested at the site are found to contain sugar and caffeine. However, in October’s purple-coloured sample, 15 to 20 percent xylazine and 10 to 15 percent fentanyl were found.
In the most recent pink-coloured xylazine-containing sample, the presence of a benzodiazepine was also detected. “Both of these samples are definitely at high risk of lethal overdoses for potentially anybody using it, if they are chronic users or light users,” Gariepy said.