‘We need bystanders to take action’ as Snohomish Co. offers NARCAN training to fight overdose crisis

In the first six months of 2023, Lynnwood Police say they have already administered twice the amount of Naloxone compared to the same timeframe in 2022. They’ve also started to see a new deadly drug that is resistant to the life-saving medication called “tranq”.

The drug is a heavy tranquilizer used by veterinarians called Xylazine. Officers warn that you won’t know someone is overdosing on tranq until it’s too late.

“You don’t know whether Xylazine is present or not. You’re probably more likely to suspect fentanyl is present -- a person may have a blue pill often something marker m-30 or a powder they’re smoking off a foil,” said Dr. Caleb Banta-Green with the Addictions, Drug and Alcohol Institute.

In some instances fentanyl is being cut with Xylazine, or tranq, nationwide. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found the heavy sedative in 23% of powder and 7% of fentanyl pills confiscated in 2022. And now, that dangerous drug has started to creep into the Pacific Northwest.

“Over the last year and a half to two years ,we’ve seen just a little teeny bit of Xylazine that means maybe about 1% of drug samples and 1% of fentanyl deaths also had Xylazine,” said Dr. Banta-Green.

It’s also Naloxone resistant. Coupled with the variety of drug strengths like fentanyl, experts said there’s no way to tell what a person is overdosing on.

“There’s no way to know whether that’s Xylazine or whether the person took valium or alcohol or twice as much fentanyl than before,” said Dr. Banta-Green. “Particularly for the rock form, we found a huge variability in the potency of fentanyl from about 6% to 38%. That’s a huge range in purity.”

The only way to test for tranq is through blood, urine, or chemistry analysis of the substance.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said they’ve found tranq after serving warrants at illegal pill pressing operations. Their officers have reportedly administered twice the amount of naloxone in the first half of 2023 compared to the same time in 2022.

For context, last year January through June, Lynnwood PD administered 17 doses of Naloxone in 14 overdose incidents. In the first six months of 2023, officers have given 35 doses of naloxone in 21 overdose incidents.

“We’re in regular conversations with medical examiners for folks who’ve overdosed, with drug treatment centers that do detailed drug testing of their clients to see what’s in that drug supply then we have some small drug checking,” said Dr. Banta-Green.

Officials said if you see someone overdosing, first call 911 immediately, then administer Naloxone if you have it.

“The NARCAN or Naloxone won’t directly impact the Xylazine but it will impact the opiates and can still help bring a person back,” said Dr. Banta-Green.

Recent trends also have South County Fire offering community training classes to learn how to administer Naloxone. Each participant gets a NARCAN kit with two doses inside. The classes are free and take place at the Lynnwood Civic Center Fire Station.

“We really need bystanders to take action and apply Naloxone or NARCAN because those minutes count,” said South County Fire’s Community Outreach Manager Shawneri Guzman.

“Those minutes are key,” she added. “Imagine holding your breath for five minutes that’s how long it takes us to get here, maybe longer -- we need people to be able to react, have the knowledge, the skills, the confidence, and the NARCAN, to hopefully save a life.”

There are four classes left this summer. Register online at www.southsnofire.org/ACT or call 425-320-5800. Snohomish County Officials said as of now there have been no documented tranq-related deaths in Snohomish County.

The Snohomish County medical examiner also recently began testing for that substance.