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A New Tool to Help Tackle the Toxic Drug Supply?

A concerning new trend in the Canadian drug supply has public health districts issuing warnings - xylazine, or “zombie drug”, is now being mixed into opioids like fentanyl to boost their effects. Xylazine was detected in over 1 300 samples in 2022, a dramatic increase from 205 samples in 2019. The addition of xylazine into the already toxic drug supply is especially dangerous as it can significantly increase the risk of fatal overdose when mixed with opioids. Additionally, one of the key opioid overdose prevention tools, naloxone, is ineffective against xylazine.

To address this gap, xylazine test strips have been developed by a Canadian company which would allow users, support workers and public health units to rapidly detect xylazine. Xylazine test strips are currently awaiting Health Canada approval, but once approved will be a valuable tool to detect the early warning signs of an increasingly toxic drug supply. Ultimately, the distribution of xylazine test strips, in addition to existing medical and psychosocial support systems will hopefully help counter this troubling trend.

Written by Andrea Brumwell


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