Know What’s in Your Drugs – Opioid Awareness Day is September 21st
Neal and Jarrod Shusterman colorfully personify drugs in their book Roxy, a cautionary tale of the progression of addiction for young adult readers. The authors introduce us to Roxy (oxycontin) and Addy (Adderall), who bring their lovers to the VIP lounge where their victims meet their top-line bosses. In Roxy’s heyday, the progression of addiction went from Oxycontin to Heroin. Nothing beats the big H. If the Shusterman’s were to write a sequel, I’m sure they would debut Fenty (Fentanyl) and now Tranq (Xylazine) as the newer thieves in town vying for the top line at the lounge.
You’ve known of Fenty. You’ve heard of Fentanyl since we first wrote our article on Opioid Awareness a year ago. Then Fenty had been on the scene and a culprit in many OD deaths — about 70 percent. The preliminary CDC numbers for overdose deaths came in at over 93K and then surpassed 100,000, and in 2021, they stood at a record 107,622, according to the preliminary data. The picture shows a 15% increase year over year, albeit at half the 30% pace from the prior year (if you can call it good news). Placing the numbers in perspective, overdoses surpassed other deaths by gun violence at 45K, but not COVID19 at 460K.
Our first-line defense against overdoses has been awareness. Prevention is critical, as is knowledge, and increasingly harm reduction. Since Fenty has arrived on the scene, we have held trainings on the use of Naloxone, aka Narcan, and also written about the case for harm reduction in The Game Has Changed. But, like many diseases, the kings of addiction seem to have an insidious and creative way of survival, staging coups for the top spot or sneaking in backstage to crash the party with another partner in crime. Fenty infiltrated the drug supply in pressed pills and powder, masquerading as any drug of choice on the streets. In our blog, we warn of street drugs and ask provocatively how trustworthy a drug dealer may be. We sound the alarm because awareness is our first defense against these murderous villains.
When Fenty joined the dance, they did not discriminate between addict or casual partier, gender or race. Eventually, Fenty created a new breed, those actually addicted and looking for them intentionally. They say necessity is the mother of invention, so perhaps desperation drove the discovery and repurposing of another drug known primarily in veterinary circles, one that would extend the effects of Fenty, but I only offer this as conjecture.
Enter Tranq, the street name for Xylazine and short for a tranquilizer, stuff strong enough to sedate a horse so it can undergo a painful surgical procedure. Tranq is showing up now on the drug scene and is known as an agent potentiator, so it is no wonder that Tranq was introduced to the dance arm in arm with Fenty. First detected in Puerto Rico, Tranq made their way to Kingsbridge in Philadelphia, where drug use is visibly in the open. Tranq is now showing up in ERs, on hospital beds where ODs are now an all too familiar scene. We do not yet have reliable numbers, but we hear in our opioid task force circles that Xylazine has now significantly infiltrated the drug supply on both coasts, often mixed with Fentanyl, and that it is a culprit in recent overdose deaths.
Sound the alarm because Tranq aka Xylaxine does not respond to Naloxone aka Narcan, though we are advised to administer it to counter any opioids in the mix. There is treatment available, but you must get to a hospital quickly. It is important to remember that Good Samaritan laws protect other drug users so as not to discourage a friend from calling 911 to help another friend in need.
Word up: Nothing can guarantee what you are getting on the street. Fentanyl test strips may marginally reduce the incidence of overdose since Tranq is often coupled with Fenty, but test strips do not detect Xylazine. There is no better time to seek treatment for those in active addiction. Contact Herren Project through our website, and we will help you navigate the treatment landscape. Harm reduction centers can play a potentially life-saving role when street drugs are killers for those in relapse or resistant to treatment for whatever reason. It is unwise to trust a drug dealer. It is especially critical to raise awareness for the susceptible causal uninformed user.
There are other concerns to be aware of on the outskirts of the opioid crisis. As we meet the opioid crisis head-on, polysubstance addiction is on the rise, diverting our focus away from other substances that can be just as lethal or difficult to kick with traditional treatment approaches.
Our defenses will need to evolve as we grow, share knowledge, and adapt our strategies.
After Tranq, who next will come to the dance to vie for the top spot or conspire with others? So long as human greed exists in the hearts and minds of humankind, there will be another murderous drug to seduce us and steal our children away from us. So long as there is disparity, desperation, self-interest, scarcity, and hate, our base human nature will be our least common denominator. We will always need to fight the fiend in human nature, lift ourselves higher, stick together, and stand vigilant.
Excerpt from The Key of G, Mama T’s Rap-sody Written by Teresa Cobleigh
Lurking in the shadows, you might see the thief
offering an alluring brand of sweet relief
and doling out a mother’s grief.
This is how Mama T says you might greet them:
Don’t I know you?
Aren’t you the one who stole a brother,
made a mother cry.
Crept up quietly by his side,
dug yourself a place inside,
took him by his own surprise
over to the other side? Thief!
Don’t I know you?
You’re a sight for sore eyes, preying on our affliction —
The sad, lonely, empty, depressed –tempting cure, sweet caress — sneak right in addiction!
I see the mask you wear for my demise.
I see demons in your disguise.
Yes, I know you! Thief!
You offer trips to many places,
But I see your mask of many faces,
You take us down from all our races — Jimi, Amy, Janis, Prince;
Lured by your epiphanies. Hooked by your mysteries.
You won’t get the best of me. Don’t mess with me!
I swallow you; you swallow all of me.
Don’t show me YOUR way to cope,
Don’t steal away my hope with dope,
Don’t dull my sense of natural high or take away my sunny sky
Oh, what you do, so intoxicating…we want you; you feel so good. I know what you do to me!I take you, I lose control, YOU take ME; you swallow ME whole!
Mesmerized by your seductive fife, you don’t show your hidden knife
Hooks for fingers, lies, demise! Get off me! I’ll have my life!
Remember: I use, I lose.
Get off me! I’ll stay clean. God help me fight the fiend!