Xylazine, Dangerous Veterinary Drug, Contaminates Cannabis Vapes and Pills in U.K.

U.K. researchers have uncovered an alarming trend – the potent veterinary sedative xylazine is appearing as a contaminant in illicit cannabis vape cartridges and counterfeit prescription pills sold on the black market. This development poses severe risks of accidental overdose and other health hazards for unsuspecting drug users.

A study published on Wednesday by scientists at King’s College London identified xylazine in samples associated with 16 individuals in the U.K., including 11 fatalities. While historically found mixed with heroin or fentanyl in the U.S., xylazine is now infiltrating a wider range of illicit substances in Britain.

The non-opioid sedative was detected in vape carts purportedly containing THC as well as fake codeine, alprazolam (Xanax), and diazepam (Valium) tablets. Researchers believe at least two of the deaths analyzed resulted solely from xylazine-tainted products without any additional opioid involvement.

“Xylazine increases overdose risks immensely when combined with opioids like heroin or fentanyl,” warned study author Dr. Caroline Copeland. “But its presence in other recreational drugs exposes an entirely new population to xylazine’s acute and chronic harms like skin ulcers and respiratory depression.”

Counterfeit pills often visually mimic legitimate pharmaceutical products, misleading consumers about their safety and contents. U.K. officials have proposed classifying xylazine as a Class C controlled substance to enable stricter penalties for its illicit distribution.

However, some experts argue that punitive approaches are insufficient, advocating for expanded harm reduction services like drug checking and overdose prevention centers to better protect public health. As xylazine contamination spreads unpredictably through the illegal drug supply, increased vigilance and preventative measures are crucial to curb potentially deadly consequences.


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