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'Tranq' testing strips now available in Brown County after statewide legalization

Posted at 7:41 AM, May 23, 2024

BELLEVUE (NBC 26) — Vivent Health in downtown Green Bay is offering xylazine testing strips, two months after the state of Wisconsin passed a bill to legalize the strips.

  • The drug appeared in four overdose death cases in Brown County in 2023, according to the Medical Examiner's office
  • An overdose expert on the Brown County Drug Task Force says xylazine, sometimes known as 'tranq,' is very deadly because it is resistant to Narcan treatment
  • The expert also says the drug is made for large animals, not humans, and that it is used by drug dealers to make fentanyl doses stronger
  • Video shows overdose statistics in Brown County and an interview with the Drug Task Force deputy

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

The State of Wisconsin legalized xylazine testing strips in the state in late March. Those testing strips are now available in Brown County.

We're at the Brown County Sheriff's Office with how the deadly drug is making a synthetic narcotic problem here even worse.

"Xylazine is a chemical that is a tranquilizer," Deputy Jordan Hooper said. "It's not meant for human consumption. It's made for large animals, cattle, horses."

Commonly known as "tranq" — or "the zombie drug" on social media — xylazine has wreaked havoc in places like Philadelphia — rotting limbs and placing users in a zombie-like state.

The drug has arrived in Brown County.

In 2023, the county had 60 overdose deaths — its second-most-ever — and 49 were attributed to fentanyl. Xylazine was found in four of those cases.

An overdose specialist on the Brown County Drug Task Force says the drug is resistant to antidotes.

"If a person uses fentanyl and xylazine, the fentanyl is taken care of by the Narcan," Deputy Hooper said. "But the xylazine is still there, and still suppressing that central nervous system, which is killing people.'

Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Douglas says tranq actually appeared in overdose deaths as far back as 2020 — then contributing to give mixed drug intoxication deaths in 2022 and the four in 2023.

Dr. Douglas says: "In every case except one, xylazine has been paired with an opiate (almost always fentanyl […]) Xylazine has never been found alone or been implicated as the sole cause of death in our case work."

Deputy Hooper says these synthetic drugs dramatically increase the risks of overdose.

"The synthetics are coming out," Hooper said. "So with the emerging threats, there's been a larger emphasis put on the trends and tracking of overdoses."

Xylazine testing strips can be picked up at Vivent Health in downtown Green Bay — free for anyone who needs them.