ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — As a way to combat the ongoing increase of the drug xylazine the state is issuing free xylazine test strips. The drug – which is specifically designed to sedate animal – has been found in the illicit drug market and can cause serious health issues.

“Xylazine is a product that drug suppliers are using within the opioid and by doing so they’re able to get more of a product, it’s a cheaper product than the opioid and it does provide a different type of high,” said Don Mareno, Schenectady Fire Chief. You cant truly know whether or not someone is under the influence of xylazine until a toxicology report is administered or the drug Narcan does not work as intended. “What we normally do by using Narcan to reverse the effects of an opioid, if we’re not getting the desired response for what we call the normal response, we start anticipating that there’s something else on board, there’s something else going on with that patient,” he explained.

Kelly Ramsey, Chief Medical Officer at New York States OASAS said xylazine is predominantly in the city but it is making its way upstate, “Actually, New York City has the best data currently, and xylazine was involved in 16% of overdose deaths last year, again hand-in-hand with fentanyl.” Ramsey said along with heavy sedation, xylazine can cause skin wounds. “So the wounds start small, and they don’t look particularly worrisome when they first start but without appropriate treatment, they can progress into large necrotic wounds that often need complicated wound care treatment,” she explained.

The test strips can be ordered through NY MATTERS. They’re designed to detect the presence of xylazine that’s been mixed in with other substances, such as cocaine or heroin. However the tests can yield a false positive, and pick up low levels of xylazine which may not have clinical significance. “So if someone has access to more in-depth drug checking in their community, then I think they should avail themselves of that opportunity,” said Ramsey. Ramsey said people can also choose not to use, use a smaller amount or call a “Never Use Alone Hotline” at 1 (800) 484-3731.