There is a shift in the way drugs are being used and obtained in Lynn, according to Candice McClory, the city’s opioid prevention specialist.
“Currently what we are seeing is an increase in xylazine being added to substances, both opioids and stimulants,” McClory said.
Xylazine, a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer, has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths across the nation, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Also known as “tranq,” xylazine is a central-nervous-system depressant that can cause drowsiness and amnesia.
A National Institute of Health study found that xylazine, which has not been approved for human use, can worsen the life-threatening effects of opioids. The findings suggest that when used in combination with opioids such as fentanyl and heroin, xylazine may damage the ability of the brain to get enough oxygen, one of the most dangerous and potentially fatal effects of opioids.
“This is especially dangerous because xylazine is not an opioid, therefore it does not respond to Narcan,” McClory said. “Additionally, it is an animal tranquilizer and is not approved for human use… It can cause extreme sedation for several hours and very large skin wounds and infections.”
Xylazine is also known to cause dangerously slow breathing, a reduced heart rate, and low blood pressure in people.
The Drug Enforcement Agency has warned of a sharp increase in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.
Data collected from the Massachusetts Ambulance Trip Record Information System points to how many opioid-related incidents are reported by emergency medical services. In 2022 there were 425 opioid-related incidents in Lynn. In 2023, there were 341, according to the report, representing a a 19.76% decline.
Those incidents in the report are defined as all calls in which opioids are involved, and not all are clinical overdoses or fatal.
Deputy Police Chief Mark O’Toole said the department has seen a 36% decrease in overdose deaths. McClory said she believes the expansion of access to naloxone, often referred to by the brand name Narcan, and other harm-reduction tools have played a role in the decline.
“It just can happen anywhere at any time,” McClory said.
McClory said there are five new naloxone boxes in the city where anyone can access the medication, which is designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses, for free at any time.
There is a QR code on each box that provides training on how to use naloxone. The five new cabinet locations are at the intersection of Western Avenue and Light Street, the bath house at Lynn Commons, the intersection of Broad Street and Cherry Street, the intersection of Liberty Street and Central Avenue, and Mount Vernon Street.