New Mexico recovery centers brace for xylazine

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a new threat looming over Albuquerque streets and recovery centers across New Mexico. 

First, it was reports of multiple overdoses in an Albuquerque apartment complex last week. Now, treatment centers are bracing for more positive tests, and more dangerous complications connected to xylazine.

Xylazine is a powerful sedative that’s only FDA approved for veterinary use. But as it pops up in doses of fentanyl and other illegal drugs, recovery centers are expecting new, dangerous complications with overdoses and other medical issues.

“We did see our first positive result last week so it’s officially hit our communities,” said Barry Ore, program director of Santa Fe Recovery Center, and Four Corners Detox Recovery Center.

The Santa Fe Recovery Center is a nonprofit substance use treatment center that serves the entire state and beyond.

“We see a lot of polysubstance use, people using opioids, methamphetamine, and primarily alcohol,” said Ore.

Now, they’re adding xylazine to that list.

Ore heard reports of xylazine on the East Coast months ago, but last week’s positive result at their center – paired with a report of six overdoses at the same time in Albuquerque possibly tied to xylazine – has them on high alert.

“Cutting off the supply of the substance just isn’t– it’s not feasible, so we really have to double down on treatment, and prevention, and recovery services,” Ore said. 

Xylazine doesn’t respond to Narcan — a drug usually used to reverse opioid overdoses.

So, Ore is expecting to see more overdoses and dependence on both drugs.

“People are much more antsy and much more uncomfortable and much more likely to leave treatment early as a result of that sort of enhanced dependence. So that’s kind of what we’re getting ready for here,” Ore said. 

Santa Fe Recovery Center ordered test strips specifically for xylazine to use during intake. They’re also educating nurses and patients on the latest from the state’s Department of Health, and using street outreach teams from their Gallup branch to help further educate.

On one hand, Ore says it’s a major concern because of the additional risks and potentially dangerous consequences, but on the other:

“It’s just the latest in a trend of the deeper underlying issue that as a society we have, you know, a crisis with addictions and in New Mexico that presents in many forms,” said Ore. 

Ore explained one difference that can make xylazine stand out from other drugs is it can cause wounds on the body, which can cause other potential complications during recovery too.