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Senators Shaheen, Hassan, Congressman Pappas Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Crack Down on Deadly Xylazine

(Washington, D.C.) - This week, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation - the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act - to crack down on a highly dangerous sedative that poses a new threat in New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic. This legislation would address current gaps in federal law by, among other actions, imposing stronger penalties for illicit use of xylazine and broaden the Drug Enforcement Administration’s oversight of its production. Xylazine,  an easily accessible veterinary tranquilizer, is being mixed with fentanyl to increase its potency and lower their production costs. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a health alert about the danger of its usage. Xylazine causes depressed breathing and heart rate, unconsciousness, necrosis and even death. Naloxone does not reverse its effects because it is not an opioid. 

“The prevalence of Narcan-resistant xylazine has exacerbated the substance use disorder crisis in New Hampshire and across the nation. The level of danger this creates for those who use it, either knowingly or not, is incredibly high and far too often turns deadly,” said Senator Shaheen, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds anti-opioid grant programs. “Our communities have endured the unimaginable and overwhelming grief of losing loved ones to the fentanyl epidemic for far too long, and the introduction of xylazine is exacerbating this public health crisis. I’m glad to partner with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on this new bill that would classify xylazine as a Schedule III drug to help get it out of the hands of everyday Granite Staters and Americans. As chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies working to combat the substance use disorder crisis, I’ll continue efforts to stop the flow of these illicit drugs from reaching our communities.”    

“Xylazine is hurting New Hampshire communities and contributing to the alarming rate of overdose deaths in our state,” Senator Hassan said. “Our bipartisan bill would take important steps to combat the abuse of xylazine by giving law enforcement more authority to crack down on the illicit distribution of this drug, including by putting stiffer penalties on criminals who are spreading this drug to our communities. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle are seeing the impact of this deadly drug in their states, and we will continue working together to move this critical bill forward.” 

“As we continue to see xylazine being mixed with fentanyl, heroin, and other deadly drugs, it’s critical we take action to crack down on illegal use,” said Congressman Pappas. “This legislation would track the manufacture of xylazine, which is legally used as an animal tranquilizer, and ensure law enforcement has the resources needed to crack down on illegal drug traffickers. I hope that this legislation will be swiftly brought to the House floor for a vote, and I’ll continue working across the aisle, and alongside law enforcement and public safety experts, to craft comprehensive solutions that will help combat our ongoing addiction epidemic.” 

“Fentanyl and xylazine can be a lethal combination, and it is making New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic even worse,” said Colonel Nathan Noyes of the New Hampshire State Police. “This bipartisan bill from Senator Hassan, Representative Pappas and Senator Shaheen will take crucial steps to help law enforcement go after the illegal use of this drug and help save lives.”  

Despite alarming reports about the rise of xylazine, federal, state and local law enforcement do not have the tools necessary to effectively track it or crack down on traffickers using it to increase their profits. 

The bipartisan, bicameral Combating Illicit Xylazine Act would address the current gap in federal law by: 

  • Imposing stronger penalties for the illicit use of xylazine; 

  • Enabling the Drug Enforcement Administration to track its manufacturing to ensure it is not diverted to the illicit market; 

  • Requiring a report on prevalence, risks and recommendations to best regulate illicit use of xylazine; 

  • Ensuring all analogues of xylazine are covered when restricting its illicit use; 

  • Declaring xylazine an emerging drug threat.   

Xylazine is a medication used by some veterinarians and farmers, and the bill cracks down on the illegal distribution of this drug while safeguarding access for professionals who use the drug legally. The bill is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association.  

Senator Shaheen, as Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice, has led efforts in the Senate to address the substance use disorder epidemic. Her bipartisan FENTANYL Results Act, signed into law as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), increases global cooperation in the fight against synthetic drug trafficking. Shaheen also introduced the Cooper Davis Act, a bipartisan bill to hold social media companies accountable for reporting to law enforcement all illicit fentanyl activity occurring on their platforms. In the fiscal year (FY) 2023 government funding legislation, Shaheen secured $608 million in federal grants to help communities and first responders across the nation to respond to the substance misuse crisis. Shaheen also included in the FY 2023 legislative language to authorize increased funding for the State Opioid Response grant program, which gives local communities resources to better combat the opioid and substance use disorder epidemic. Since 2018, New Hampshire has received approximately $140 million from these grants to combat the opioid epidemic in the state.