Santa Clara County reports first 'Tranq' death

Santa Clara County announced its first overdose death due to xylazine, an emerging street drug also known as "tranq." 

This death comes on the heels of at least four others in San Francisco and many more across the country by a sedative originally designed to tranquilize cattle that is being mixed with heroin, fentanyl and other opioids, officials said. 

In late February, a 36-year-old man was found unresponsive in San Jose and through postmortem toxicology reports, the Santa Clara County coroner confirmed that the man tested positive for xylazine and fentanyl. 

"The last thing I want is to see more deaths due to xylazine here, but sadly, the experience of the rest of the country indicates there may be more to come," said Dr. Michelle Jorden, Santa Clara County’s medical examiner and coroner said.

SEE ALSO: Deadly sedative 'tranq' creeping into SF's drug supply, health officials warn

Xylazine’s effects are similar to those of opioids which slows breathing and heart rate. However, xylazine overdoses are not able to be reversed by naloxone, or "Narcan," the lifesaving-drug that reverses opioid overdoses, which is causing major concern among many medical professionals.

"It is critical to still administer naloxone and call 911 when encountering someone with an overdose, since xylazine is often mixed with opioids for which naloxone could still make a life-and-death difference," said Dr. Tiffany Ho, medical director for Santa Clara County’s Behavioral Health Services department.

A true number of xylazine-related deaths cannot be determined due to a lack of testing available  in all emergency rooms and other healthcare settings. 

One Central Valley congressman called xylazine the "Zombie Drug… created to sedate 1,000-pound horses," and is urging the Drug Enforcement Agency to increase its resources to combat xylazine’s growing use.  

"I urge the DEA to increase resources to our state and local partners so they are able to fully combat xylazine and fentanyl distribution in our communities," said Rep. Josh Harper (D-Stockton). "The DEA must expand programs like Operation Engage, which will allow more communities to benefit from a comprehensive community-level approach to addressing this drug crisis."