Clinton County Health Department Administrator Rodney Wann approached the Clinton County Council on Tuesday morning to discuss the potential threat of a rising public health threat causing overdoses in surrounding counties.

Wann highlighted the possibility of an influx of a readily available animal tranquilizer called Xylazine that individuals struggling with substance use disorder are beginning to utilize in surrounding counties and the country as a whole. Wann commented that the tranquilizer has been on the market for several years, but its prevalence has increased recently as it is being mixed into other drugs that could also contain fentanyl, a highly dangerous and impactful substance that the county has been fighting for years.

“(The) threat is (that) it’s being mixed in with others and adulterating other chemicals and drugs that are being sold to folks,” said Wann. “Unfortunately, our group of substance use disordered individuals who are addicted and unfortunately are looking at sometimes having to use several times a day … We are already worried about fentanyl, but the thing about fentanyl is that we have Narcan to reverse fentanyl. With this Xylazine, it is not affected by the Narcan. It is not an opioid, so those reversal effects are not the same.”

Wann stated that Xylazine impacts the user’s body similarly to opioids and other substances that could increase the likelihood of an overdose when introduced into an individual’s system together. Wann stressed that an increase of overdoses may become a reality in the near future as the substance becomes more prevalent.

“It has similar effects on the body, depressing the respiratory, depressing the heartbook, depressing any of those autosystems that keep you alive and running along with what the opioids might do and the fentanyl,” said Wann. “It’s a triple threat, and if someone adds alcohol, that even becomes worse. It’s a big threat right now.”

Wann highlighted different cases in surrounding counties involving Xylazine, such as an overdose in Blackford County, numerous seizures and positive tests in Tippecanoe County and reports of the substance in Howard County.

Although Xylazine is not an opioid, Wann stressed that individuals that are questioning whether to utilize Narcan on another individual suffering from an overdose should continue to administer the Narcan and notify emergency services to ensure the best odds of the individual surviving. Wann stated that many community members may become weary of using the Narcan due to the uncertainty of an opioid overdose or a Xylazine overdose, but he assured the community that the Narcan will not produce any negative reactions regardless of the situation.

“Initially, people might think they don’t want to use the Narcan because of this, but we still want to encourage them to do so,” said Wann. “There’s no harmful effect whatsoever.”

Wann stated that the prevalence of the substance in Clinton County and surrounding counties may fluctuate in the future, but he commented that the county and local organizations continue to come together to supply public health aid for the community for every situation.

“The supply of what we see in this city varies from week to week and day to day sometimes. If we get a batch in that is high in fentanyl or high in fentanyl content or just a higher opioid height quality than before, we might see an influx of overdoses temporarily,” said Wann. “We’re going to expand thanks to the council, the commissioners and the city. One of the uses of that opioid settlement money is to expand where those boxes are and how readily available they are.”

Wann concluded by stating that it is a necessity for the community to continue working toward the destigimatization of substance use disorder and increases in overdose awareness and available materials to help fight the possible new public health threat.

“To remove the stigmatization of all of this, we have to be aware as a community that this is going on and that this new threat’s out there and we want everyone to first acknowledge that we have folks out here that will suffer from this, and we need to make sure they are aware so we can avoid that as much as we can,” said Wann.

Clinton County Community Corrections Director Brett Barton concluded the discussion by stating that the public health officials are likely more aware of the effects of Xylazine currently, but he stressed that the threat must be publicized to potentially discourage the use of the substance in the future.

“I think we’re at a point where we know more about it than the addicts do at this point, but it’s going to come, and it’s going to hit hard,” said Barton.

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