National drug lab warns about xylazine spike in Minnesota
A national drug testing company issued a new warning in Minnesota after seeing a spike in tests coming back positive for xylazine.
The drug is typically used as a tranquilizer on horses. It’s now being mixed with fentanyl to extend the high, but it’s adding a new level of danger to the addiction crisis.
Millennium Health, one of the nation’s largest drug testing labs, recently identified Minnesota as one of only two states that saw a “significant increase” in xylazine.
“It’s very significant, I think,” said Dr. Eric Dawson, vice president of clinical affairs at Millennium Health.
Dawson said the company, which is regulated by the federal government, conducts 50,000 drug tests primarily at substance abuse centers in Minnesota every year.
In the 100 days since President Joe Biden called for more xylazine testing and treatment, Millennium Health said roughly 12% of fentanyl screenings in Minnesota came back positive for xylazine.
“Anytime I see an increase, I’m concerned by that, especially an increase when that is occurring in our population that’s already exposing themselves to fentanyl,” Dawson said.
The Minnesota Department of Health told 5 INVESTIGATES that it would caution against using the company’s data to make public health decisions; however, the agency said it is “generally consistent” with what it is seeing.
Earlier this year, state health department records also showed a rise in deadly overdoses that involved xylazine.
Due to the alarming trend, 5 INVESTIGATES traveled to Philadelphia in March. Many consider the city to be ground zero for the drug.
“It’s overwhelming. It is now the supply,” said Sarah Laurel, the founder of Savage Sisters, an organization in the Kensington neighborhood aimed at helping those through addiction.
Xylazine has devastated the community — causing users to go into a deep sleep, or worse, develop gruesome, gaping skin wounds that can lead to amputation.
Millennium Health’s data shows Pennsylvania is still returning the most positive tests for xylazine, but it also shows it’s going up in Minnesota.
“We’re watching what happens with xylazine out west very carefully,” Dawson said. “So much of what we see in the east doesn’t move out west. It is too soon yet to say that it is, but we’re watching it very carefully.”