Another danger for illicit drug users: animal tranquilizers

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CHESTER, Vermont. – Brooke Goodwin came home one evening last March after going out with friends. She had just turned 23 the day before, had a good job and was planning to leave with friends the following weekend. Her mother, whose bedroom is next to the kitchen, overheard her daughter getting food and going to bed.

But Brooke never came down the next day. Her older sister found her in her room. She had overdosed on a poisonous mixture of the potent opioid fentanyl cut with xylazine, an animal sedative that is making its way into the illicit drug supply, particularly in the North East.

Her death “just tore us to shreds,” said her mother, Deb Walker, who has four other children.

“I didn’t even know Brooke was using drugs. I absolutely know she didn’t know it was in there, ”she said.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this fall, xylazine was involved in fatal drug overdoses in 23 states in 2019, with the highest rate – 67% – occurring in the northeast. The animal sedative used in veterinary medicine to put cows, horses, sheep and other animals to sleep is added to other drugs, mainly fentanyl and heroin, as a cutting agent, said responsible.

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But unlike opioids, there is no antidote like naloxone, also called Narcan, specific for xylazine overdose.

Animal tranquilizer is also not a controlled substance and is not approved for human use. When used in illicitly produced opioids, xylazine may increase the risk of fatal overdose, the CDC warns.

“If someone overdoses xylazine or cut heroin with xylazine, that naloxone will not have much effect on the part of the overdose caused by xylazine,” said Dr. Scott Hadland, physician. addiction specialist and adolescent leader. and young adult medicine at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.

Supportive measures can be used if a person is treated early enough, such as resuscitation, fluid intake and other types of hospital care, Hadland said. “But it is much more difficult to manage in the community because it will inevitably be an overdose involving several substances, including opioids,” he said.

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While the rate of overdose deaths for which xylazine was listed as the cause of death was low at 1.2%, the report states that detection of the animal tranquilizer may be underestimated. This is because routine post-death toxicology tests “may not have included testing for xylazine, and current testing protocols for xylazine are not standard.”

“It has been going on for some time but there are also a lot of indications from local authorities that the problem is getting worse, especially here in the northeast,” Hadland said.

One or more other drugs have also been listed as the cause of overdose deaths, including heroin and cocaine, with fentanyl being the most common, according to the CDC report.

“We know fentanyl is part of the drug supply. We know it’s in the heroin supply, so often when you think about buying heroin you actually get fentanyl. I think that’s what’s going on with xylazine, ”Hadland said. “You think you get heroin and you get something that is cut with xylazine.”

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Nationally, overdose deaths have been increasing for more than two decades, but jumped 30% in the past year. Health officials say the jump is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and a more dangerous drug supply.

In the small, rural state of Vermont, the number of fatal overdoses involving xylazine combined with opioids has tripled from five in 2020 to 15 in the first seven months of this year, according to a Department of Health report. from Vermont.

Lt. Casey Daniell, commander of the Vermont State Police Drug Unit, said it’s common to see xylazine in test results for drugs that police buy undercover.

“I think the biggest problem is the fact that it’s not a controlled substance, so there are no regulations on it,” he said. “It’s no different from aspirin,” so people cannot be accused of handing it out.

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Walker says his daughter has been poisoned.

Drugs and addiction popped up in their conversations multiple times, Walker said, as Goodwin was helping friends who used them.

“She was trying to help them. She did all she could to try and help them clean up and they pulled her down, ”Walker said during a visit to Goodwin’s grave earlier this month.

The more information there is about xylazine, the better, she said.

“There are so many people who would love not to (use) that haven’t been able to beat him. Maybe those are the people who would hear that and understand that and that might help and that would be great, ”Walker said.

Brooke not only lived with her mother, but worked with her at Precision Valley Communications, a mapping, engineering and design company for the telecommunications and utilities industries, where she was a CAD operator.

“All of my coworkers thought she was wonderful and everyone was so shocked. There was no clue. She wasn’t a drug addict; however, she was using.”

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Brooke died on March 14, 2021, two days after her birthday and one day before her mother’s. She “enjoyed her dog, photography, road trips and investigating the supernatural,” according to her obituary.

She was buried the night before Halloween, her favorite holiday, and people who attended were encouraged to dress up. Now her 9-year-old sisters, who are twins, ask their mother if the family will give Brooke a Christmas present.

Her friend, Haley Decelle, said Brooke was “kind, calm and level-headed” and the couple had taken frequent road trips and had matching tattoos. Decelle is pregnant now.

“It sucks because we were always talking about doing it all together when one of us got pregnant,” she said. “And now I can’t do it. “

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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