Emily Rice Published

MU Summit To Address Xylazine In Opioid Crisis

Assorted pills are seen laying in a pile.Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

A Friday summit at Marshall University will explore critical interventions against the use of the drug xylazine as part of the opioid crisis.

Xylazine is a tranquilizer increasingly linked to overdose-related deaths across the United States, but most notably in the southern states, according to the CDC.

“Xylazine is actually an animal tranquilizer that is now being used with opioids, particularly fentanyl, and it’s not ever been used [for human consumption], it’s not meant to be, it’s not intended for human consumption. Essentially, it lowers your blood pressure and makes you more sedated,” said Oscar Morgan, project director of the Central East Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network, an Opioid Response Network partner organization.

There has been an alarming increase of fentanyl mixed with xylazine and in April 2023, the White House designated the drug as an emerging threat within the ongoing opioid crisis.

In response, the Opioid Response Network approached Dr. Kari Mika-Lude, director of the West Virginia Behavioral Health Workforce and Health Equity Training Center at Marshall University, with the opportunity to provide an in-person summit specifically focused on the emerging threat of xylazine.

“While the training center typically focuses on the behavioral health workforce, specifically, for this summit, we’re kind of expanding to also include other health care professions, emergency medical services, quick response teams,” Mika-Lude said. “Because all of those professions are certainly relevant when we’re talking about xylazine.”

The summit aims to bring communities together to discuss and strategize interventions in outreach, harm reduction, symptom treatment, overdose prevention and withdrawal management.

Dr. Matthew Christiansen is the state health officer and commissioner of the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.

“It’s something that we’re dealing with across the state,” Christiansen said. “And so to give public health practitioners more information about xylazine help them counsel patients or individuals that might be using this substance to inform them of the of the dangers of illicit substances broadly, but also the unique characteristics of xylazine, which predisposes individuals for difficult to treat skin wounds, and also the low blood pressure and sedative effects.”

The event is free for all attendees and will be live-streamed at wvbhtraining.org/trainings/.

To register to attend click here.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.

**Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated that Oscar Morgan is the executive director of the Opioid Response Network. He is the project director of the Central East ATTC, an ORN partner organization. This story has been updated to reflect the correct title.