The opioid crisis is an ongoing public health concern in Canada. In 2022, a total of 7,328 apparent opioid toxicity deaths were reported, which is an average of 20 deaths per day.
Xylazine, referred to as tranq, is an animal tranquilizer that has appeared as an adulterant in the unregulated drug supply (particularly in opioids) and is contributing to increasing numbers of drug poisoning (overdose) events and deaths.
There is no approved drug for humans for reversing the effects of xylazine, so detection is critical.
What is the technology?
The Rapid Response Xylazine Test Strip by BTNX (Pickering, Ontario) is a rapid test for the detection of xylazine that can be used for drug checking in an unregulated drug supply.
What is the potential impact?
Xylazine can have harmful effects, such as severe skin lesions, central nervous system depression, cardiovascular effects, and death.
The detection of xylazine using a test strip could alter consumption behaviours, such as avoiding the use of contaminated drugs, reducing the quantity consumed, injecting more slowly, or choosing to use at a supervised consumption site.
What else do we need to know?
The strips are currently available in Canada for $349.00 for a box of 100 or $3.49 per strip.
Although these strips are good at checking for xylazine, they are not designed to anticipate and test for the next adulterant to enter the unregulated drug supply which could be equally or even more dangerous. Therefore, these strips would be useful as part of a robust harm reduction strategy.