HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health has announced it will be taking formal action to limit access to xylazine, also known as “tranq,” by temporarily listing it as a “schedule III” controlled substance.

This drug is a powerful sedative that is approved for veterinary use, but one that is increasingly found in Pennsylvania’s illicit drug supply.

The Department of Health states that the scheduling preserves the legitimate use of the drug by veterinarians and farmers on livestock and other animals.  

“This action will protect veterinarians and other legitimate users and manufacturers of xylazine, which is an important medication for animal sedation, while also creating penalties for people who add illicit xylazine to the drug supply that is harming people in our communities,” said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen . “Our focus remains on developing strategies that help connect people with substance use disorder to treatment and other resources.”   

Dr. Bogen submitted the notice to temporarily add xylazine to the list of Schedule III drugs under the state’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act.

By making this drug a controlled substance, the Shapiro administration says it will assist law enforcement agencies to bring justice to those who illegally add xylazine to the illicit drug supply to harm others.

“District attorneys across Pennsylvania are grateful that this illicit dangerous drug, xylazine, is being scheduled as a controlled substance,” said Greg Rowe, with the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association. “There is no legitimate human purpose for its use. Scheduling xylazine will allow law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and hold drug traffickers seeking to sell it in our communities, often to unsuspecting users, accountable.”  

The Department of Health says that deaths increased due to xylazine increased in Pennsylvania. In 2017, xylazine contributed to 90 overdose deaths, but in 2021, it contributed to 55 overdose deaths across 30 counties – an increase of over 600% in just five years in the state.

The drug is also becoming increasingly present in Philadelphia. In 2021, Philadelphia reported that 90% of street opioid samples tested contained xylazine, which is according to the state’s Department of Health.

Anyone seeking substance use treatment or recovery resources for themselves, or a loved one, can call the toll-free PA Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357), or go online to the Addiction Treatment Locator, Assessment, and Standards Platform (ATLAS) by clicking here.