Xylazine: What you need to know!

What is it?

Xylazine is a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use and has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths nationwide in the evolving drug addiction and overdose crisis. Studies show people exposed to xylazine often knowingly or unknowingly used it in combination with other drugs, particularly illicit fentanyl in order to lengthen its euphoric effects. People report using xylazine or xylazine-containing drugs by injecting, snorting, swallowing, or inhaling.

Also known as “Tranq,” xylazine is a central nervous system depressant that can cause drowsiness, amnesia, and slow the user’s breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure down to dangerously low levels.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine


Alarming Statistics

The NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that while the full national scope of overdose deaths involving xylazine is unknown, research shows overdose deaths linked to xylazine have spread westward across the United States, with the largest impact in the Northeast.

Most overdose deaths linked to both xylazine and fentanyl also involved additional substances, including cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin, methadone, and prescription opioids. From 2015 to 2020, the percentage of all drug overdose deaths involving xylazine increased from 2% to 26% in Pennsylvania. Xylazine was involved in 19% of all drug overdose deaths in Maryland in 2021 and 10% in Connecticut in 2020.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 107,735 Americans died between August 2021 and August 2022 from drug poisonings, with 66 percent of those deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel in Mexico, using chemicals largely sourced from China, are primarily responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in communities across the United States.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is reporting a widespread increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.

“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” said Administrator Milgram. “DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States. The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine.”

Overdose – Narcan – Necrosis

Xylazine and fentanyl drug mixtures place users at a higher risk of suffering a fatal drug poisoning. Taking opioids in combination with other central nervous system depressants—like alcohol or benzodiazepines—increases the risk of life-threatening overdose as well.

Because xylazine is not an opioid, Naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects.

In the event of a suspected xylazine overdose, experts recommend giving the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone because xylazine is frequently combined with opioids. However, naloxone does not address the impact of xylazine on breathing.

Because of this, experts are concerned that a growing prevalence of xylazine in the illicit opioid supply may render naloxone less effective for some overdoses. Emergency medical services should always be alerted to a suspected overdose.

People who repeatedly inject drug mixtures containing xylazine are prone to develop skin ulcers, abscesses, severe wounds, including necrosis—the rotting of human tissue—that may lead to amputation.

Many users go untreated rather than face judgment at hospitals and other treatment centers.

Source: Pennsylvania Capital Star

Where is the Hope?  What can we do?

This drug is making its way from the big cities and right into the suburbs, as it knows no boundaries. It is deadly, and for people who crave that lengthened state of euphoria, it is attractive and worth the risk…They are caught in the grip of addiction!

As people of God, we must continue to educate ourselves in order to be better prepared to answer the tough questions, know where to get assistance, and above all show God’s love and compassion for all.

Pray for God to intervene in the lives of drug users… Pray for the resources to flow to officials as they need to combat this deadly invasion…. and Pray that our hearts and minds remain open to sharing His abundant and everlasting love with all we meet.


Article Sources: NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse / Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) / 6ABC


Our call is to hear the cries of those whose lives are impacted by the current opioid epidemic…

This crisis affects every congregation. Yet this disease is often a difficult topic to discuss.  Hopefully these resources and materials will help your congregation work to help those affected by addiction. If you need more than this webpage can provide, please contact a member of the taskforce.

There is no doubt that once those in church leadership come forth to address this epidemic with Christ like love in worship, in educational setting, more and more will feel safe telling their stories and helping others who need assistance.

Mission Statement

The mission of the PSEC Addiction & Recovery Task Force is to share God’s love with people suffering from the destructive disease of addiction and their affected family members and friends.

Our goal is to decrease stigma surrounding addiction by broadening individual knowledge, awareness, and understanding while providing support, resources, and other vital information about this disease to ministers and congregations.

Walking the 12 Steps with Gratitude

An Introduction to the 12 Steps: The 12 Steps found within recovery programs are positive tools that make recovery possible for those with substance use disorder. Through surrender and humility, participants learn about spiritual principles found within these 12 Steps.

With direction and guidance from a mentor (referred to as a sponsor), steps are studied and those addicted write about how each step applies to their lives, both past and present. Recovery experiences are shared at 12 Step meetings and the message of hope is carried.

In the following series, we will explore each of these steps from the viewpoint of two individuals in long-term recovery from drug abuse.

Disclaimer: For the purposes of this series, persons with substance use disorder may be referred to as addicts.

Resources & Links

Resources at the Addiction Policy Forum website include a handbook for families — Navigating Treatment and Addiction: A Guide for Families — as well as other resources.  We invite you to view these videos and share them with your congregation.

12 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Addiction from the Addiction Policy Forum

The Opioid Crisis Practical Toolkit from The Partnership Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives

Narcotics Anonymous: https://na.org

Alcoholics Anonymous: https://aa.org

Essays and Stories

Here are five essays which are intended to assist you in focusing your pastoral care and to give you hints as to ways you might bring perspective when various addiction issues arise:



Video of the November 10, 2022, program ‘Harm Reduction and Healing Centered Engagement to End Overdose.’ Featuring Rev. Erica Poellet, UCC Minister of Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Ministries, Mr. Terrell Jones, OnPoint (NYC), Ms. Annie Brogan, Philadelphia Dept of Public Health Client Engagement Coordinator, and members of the PSEC Addiction and Recovery Task force, this community education event brought us together online and at St. Paul’s (Fort Washington) to discuss best practices and theological grounding of Harm Reduction.
Resurrecting Hope PP

Video from John Adams DA for the June 2021, Annual Meeting: https://youtu.be/SBnEnNcuDY0

The Addiction Policy Forum has provided 4 short videos that clearly explain basic, important issues relating to addiction: how addiction works, the risk of addiction, understanding severity and not waiting for rock bottom. All 4 can be found at: https://www.addictionpolicy.org/videos.

    • ‘Episode One – The Hijacker: How Addiction Works’
      Description: Learn how substance use disorders affect the brain.
    • ‘Episode Two – Whirlpools of Risk’
      Description: Not everyone who uses alcohol or drugs develops a substance use disorder (SUD) – why is that?
    • ‘Episode Three – Understanding Severity’
      Description: Like other chronic illnesses, substance use disorders (SUDs) get worse over time. Learn the different levels of severity.
    • ‘Episode Four – Don’t Wait for “Rock Bottom”‘
      Description: Understanding the concept of ‘Rock Bottom’

Do’s and Don’ts for Churches

Attached below is a power point presentation and a shortened version of the Congregational Do’s & Don’ts that appear in the power point.

PSEC Addiction & Recovery PPT_11.15.20


Many people have no knowledge of what Narcan (naloxone) is, how it is used and how it saves lives.  People will often dismiss it as giving a drug addict another drug. If you want to know more, a wonderful resource is the training tape by Dr. Rachel Levine, former director of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and now is the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services . On this tape she explains what Narcan is, how it is used and walks you step by step to through the process.  It is a short training that could teach you how to save a life. Please take the time to view the training if you have Narcan, are considering getting Narcan and especially if you have no idea what Narcan is.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs states:

“Members of the community, family members, friends, and bystanders may be prescribed naloxone and can lawfully administer the drug to someone who is experiencing an overdose. Pennsylvania’s Physician General has written standing orders for the general public to be able to obtain naloxone without a prescription from their doctor. Although not necessary in order to obtain the medication it is recommended that individuals receive training to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose and to learn how to properly administer naloxone.”

You can watch the Dr. Rachel Levine’s naloxone training video on TRAIN PA to get your certificate of completion that will protect you legally as a Good Samaritan trying to help someone in need: http://bit.ly/PANaloxoneTraining

To receive a certificate of completion, you must watch the video on TRAIN PA (http://bit.ly/PANaloxoneTraining). You will NOT receive a certificate for watching on Facebook or YouTube.

If you have received Narcan, please view the training to have Good Samaritan coverage.

Contact the Task Force

Reach the taskforce at psec.ar.taskforce@gmail.com.

The PSEC Addiction and Recovery Task Force is made up of:
Rev. Dr. Deborah Clemens
Rev. Josh Blakesley
Dr. Kay Jones
Trish Rathbun
Cheryl Rathbun

Use the Committee Contact Listing to access contact information, as they are more than willing to be an asset to you.

PSEC Weekly News

Stay current with local church, conference-wide and national UCC news. Also included is a link to Communitas, our newsletter formatted for easy insertion into worship bulletins.

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