COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine wants to crack down on a veterinary tranquilizer that has weaseled its way into Ohio’s illegal drug supply.

On Wednesday, DeWine ordered the State Board of Pharmacy to reclassify xylazine, or “tranq,” as a Schedule III controlled substance, the governor’s office said in a news release. The currently uncontrolled drug — a central nervous system depressant often used by veterinarians as a sedative, anesthetic or muscle relaxant — has been spotted more frequently in Ohio’s overdose death investigations.

“This lethal drug has dangerous side effects which can’t be reversed by naloxone, so there is no way to reverse its impact on people,” DeWine said. “The rate of overdose deaths involving a mixture of xylazine and other drugs is increasing at an alarming rate, which is exactly why we need to take action now.”

Xylazine, which is not approved for human consumption, is often mixed with heroin, fentanyl or new synthetic opioids, the governor’s office said. Its involvement in overdose deaths increased fourfold from 2019 to 2021.

YearXylazine-involved overdose deaths
Jan. 1, 2022 – March 14, 2022113

Of the total recorded xylazine-involved overdose deaths from 2019 to 2022, the governor’s office said 99.2% also involved fentanyl.

When combined with an opioid, xylazine can worsen the potential for lung failure in the event of an overdose, and human consumption can cause “debilitating” skin ulcers, tissue decay, and bacterial infections, according to DeWine’s office.

Classifying the drug as a Schedule III controlled substance will allow for more robust testing of the drug, as most of the state’s toxicology and crime labs do not test for uncontrolled substances. Reclassification would also criminalize the sale and trafficking of xylazine, the governor’s office said.

Xylazine is the first substance DeWine has ordered to be added to Ohio’s controlled drug scheduled in 2023. Last year, the State Board of Pharmacy tacked on nine substances to the list.

Veterinary practices can still administer the substance to animals but must obtain a Category 3 Terminal Distribution of Dangerous Drugs license by June 30, DeWine said.