Animal associations

Nashville sees slight decrease in overdose deaths; Animal tranquilizer drugs on the rise

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Two trends emerge from the latest data on suspected overdose deaths from the Metro Public Health Department: a slight decrease in overdose deaths this year compared to the same period last year and an animal tranquilizer appearing in more Davidson County Overdoses.

According to the Metro Public Health Department, 166 people did not survive an overdose in Nashville last quarter, representing a nearly 10% drop in deaths from the same time last year.

Brian Sullivan of the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee said any loss from opioids is a strategy, but “there is a silver lining in the decrease in these overdose deaths.”

He believes the decrease can be attributed to a wide range of harm reduction measures, including new national and local programs, more mental health resources and the launch of 988, the distribution of accurate information about fentanyl by the health department and more money going to organizations like Alliance Prevention.

“It really takes all of these different things working together to reduce overdose deaths in your community,” Sullivan said.

However, on a trip to South Nashville to help addiction sufferers on Friday night, Mainline Harm Reduction’s Miriam Field offered an additional theory about the trend in overdose deaths.

“The tolerance is there,” she said, “So fatal overdose rates will go down if tolerance increases.”

What Field sees on the nights she travels in the area is the impact of the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine in Nashville.

According to the MPHD, xylazine has been found in 6% of suspected overdose deaths so far this year, up from 2.6% last year.

“Every day I go out with a full first aid kit and every day I come home with it empty because xylzine is a drug that causes lesions, corrosion of the skin, especially when injected,” said she declared.

Xylazine is not approved for human use and according to the NIH, it is becoming more common in the United States in recent years. Researchers also say it’s often mixed with other drugs like fentanyl.

“People report using fentanyl containing xylazine to prolong its euphoric effects,” writes the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Field also notes that, unlike fentanyl, naloxone cannot be used to treat xylazine overdoses, posing a new challenge for those trying to prevent overdoses in Middle Tennessee.

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“There will always be something and we’ve seen a steady progression in the power of our drug supply,” Field said,