August 9, 2023
Public Health Media
Xylazine Found in Limited Quantities of Illicit Drugs in LA County
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Scientific Services Bureau (Crime Lab) has detected xylazine in limited quantities of illicit drugs seized by local law enforcement in Los Angeles County, signaling that the substance is present in the local drug supply. Xylazine is a veterinary anesthetic that is not FDA approved for human consumption; it can cause dangerously low blood pressure, a decrease in breathing rate and heart rate, and damage to tissue which can lead to skin wounds, large sores and ulcers, when consumed by people.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stresses that these findings highlight that the illicit drug supply in Los Angeles County remains dangerous and contains substances such as xylazine that can increase overdose deaths. People who are obtaining these drugs may not be aware that xylazine is present.
On March 8, 2023, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health released a health alert highlighting that xylazine is being mixed with illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, or pressed into counterfeit pills (e.g., Norco, Percocet, Vicodin, etc.) or sedatives (Xanax) as a cheap additive to increase the effects of these drugs.
The safest course of action is to avoid using illicit drugs, according to Public Health. To minimize the risk of overdose for people who are using drugs, Public Health urges residents to:
- Never use alone: Using with another person is protective and increases the chances of lifesaving interventions such as the administration of naloxone in instances of an overdose.
- Use small “tester” doses: Starting with small amounts and increasing amounts slowly can help reduce the risk of an overdose if a substance someone is using is contaminated with fentanyl or xylazine.
- Stagger drug use with others: Making sure at least 1 person in the group can administer naloxone to reverse an overdose can save a life.
- Avoid mixing drugs: The effects of combining substances may be stronger and more unpredictable than using one drug alone, and mixing and using multiple drugs increases the risk of an overdose.
- Carry naloxone: Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose. While xylazine is not an opioid, because it is being found with opioids, naloxone can still successfully restore breathing and reverse the effects of opioids and fentanyl when xylazine is mixed with these drugs.
- Use fentanyl test strips to test drugs for fentanyl: Being able to detect fentanyl in a substance can help people who use drugs use more safely—for example by having naloxone on hand or using smaller amounts of the substance or using a different drug that doesn’t contain fentanyl.
The Crime Lab initiated a three-month pilot program starting April 11, 2023, to track xylazine detected in controlled substances submitted to the Crime Lab. During that time, the Crime Lab analyzed a total of 4,608 controlled substance samples and detected xylazine in a total of 13 samples, resulting in an overall rate 0.003% of samples having xylazine. It was noted that all samples that contained xylazine also contained fentanyl.
Of the 4,608 samples tested, 320 samples were found to contain fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, and of the 320 samples, 13 had an indication of xylazine, resulting in 4% of all substances with fentanyl also having xylazine. However, among the 4,608 samples, methamphetamine was the most prominent substance, being detected in nearly 3,000 samples.
These samples were collected from all jurisdictions throughout Los Angeles County and originated from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrol stations or other local police agencies who use the Crime Lab services. All controlled substance seizures were associated with a criminal case or incident including an arrest, seizure, or warrant service. Seizures varied in size—as small as a “dime bag,” a tablet or tablets, or as large as a kilo (brick). Given the source of these tested controlled substances, these findings are not necessarily indicative of what may be prevalent in the community, nor does it indicate which type of drug is most used.
For questions about LASD’s testing, please contact the Scientific Services Bureau: Captain Ernie Bille (323) 260-8501 or Crime Lab Director James Carroll (323) 260-8502.