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Attorney General Josh Stein Calls for Passage of the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, May 18, 2023

Contact: Nazneen Ahmed

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today urged Congressional leadership to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act (H.R.1839/S.993) to combat the widespread illicit use and trafficking of xylazine and help prevent xylazine-related deaths. Xylazine is 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.

“We need to give law enforcement the tools they need to go after drug traffickers and prevent these illicit deadly drugs from overrunning our streets,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “This bill will help us save lives in North Carolina, and I urge Congress to pass it.”

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 people, xylazine is known to depress breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and cause unconsciousness, necrosis, and even death. Xylazine is not an opioid, so existing reversal drugs 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 United States. 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 these pills and drugs in communities and keep people safe, Attorney General Stein is asking Congress to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, which will:

  • Classify the illicit use of xylazine as a Schedule III drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
  • Allow the DEA to track the manufacturing and sales of xylazine to ensure that it is not diverted.
  • Require 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.
  • Ensure all salts, isomers, and other forms of xylazine are also covered when restricting the drug’s illicit use.

In North Carolina, Attorney General Stein is also pushing for statewide strategies to address the fentanyl crisis. He’s seeking funding from the legislature to create a Fentanyl Control Unit within the Department of Justice to help local district attorneys handle large-scale fentanyl trafficking, wiretap, and overdose cases. He’s also working to support legislation, including the Stop Counterfeit Pill Act, which updates North Carolina law to address pill presses and the counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, methamphetamine, or other dangerous drugs, and the Novel Opioid Control Act to update state law to protect North Carolinians from nitazines, a class of opioids 40 times more powerful than fentanyl. The State Crime Lab, which is part of the North Carolina Department of Justice, also renovated the Drug Chemistry and Toxicology sections of the State Crime Lab to allow scientists to swiftly and efficiently test evidence critical to law enforcement investigations.

Attorney General Stein is joined in sending today’s letter by the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

A copy of the letter is available here.