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Xylazine’s presence in illicit drug scene complicating addiction treatment

todayFebruary 28, 2024 5

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New York State is investing millions of dollars in harm reduction strategies to address the deadly fentanyl and opioid epidemic, but a veterinary medicine drug is complicating the way addiction can be treated.

People in Rochester are seeing the impacts of xylazine in the illicit street supply. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the tranquilizer is increasingly being found in the U.S. illegal drug supply and linked to overdose deaths. Xylazine, which is not approved for use in people, can be life-threatening and is especially dangerous when combined with opioids, like fentanyl.

Andrea Tudisco is a registered nurse with Regional Health Reach, a Rochester Regional Health, grant-funded street medicine program, providing direct care where it’s needed most.

“We’ve seen a lot of drug use of skin infections and open wounds due to IV injection and xylazine coming to Rochester,” says Tudisco, who’s been working with those in the unhoused community in various locations for 20 years.

‘We practice in every setting, every specialty:’ A day at work with a PA

News 8 met up with Tudisco outside of the Father Tracey Advocacy Center on North Clinton Ave. The non-profit is a resource-rich beacon of hope in the heart of what’s considered Rochester’s open drug market.

“It’s very complicated, especially when you have people still in the street, they’re not getting to appointments or to wound care. They’re living in cold temperatures. Their feet can be wet, their clothing is wet, their nutrition; they’re not getting the diet that they need, the protein for wound healing,” Tudisco explains.

Operating around the same area is the 100% volunteer-run grassroots organization, Hope Dealers BTC. The group offers outreach through boots-on-the-ground connection, as well as out of the Latino Youth and Development Center, run off of North Clinton Ave., which also sits in one of the poorest zip codes in the state.

“There’s definitely issues with addiction and cyclical poverty. A lot of people have fallen through the cracks over the years – people who can’t read or write very well. Or, who don’t speak English well. A lot of those people actually have a lot of barriers to engaging in these resources,” says volunteer Kayla Ross.

There is currently a need for women’s bras, men’s clothing, and men’s shoes. Volunteers with Hope Dealers are also seeing the impacts of xylazine on the illicit drug supply. Ross gives an example of a recent person she was helping who chose not to engage in social services, ended up with an infection on his hand, and needed an IV.

Monroe County sees increase in fatal opioid and cocaine overdoses

“The infection worsened; he wasn’t able to pick up his antibiotics from the pharmacy because they were too expensive. And he, a few weeks ago ended up in the hospital and had part of his hand amputated,” Ross describes.

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Commissioner of New York State’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports, says the drug market is always changing.

“So what is the next substance, what is the next adulterant? We don’t know, but I’m pretty sure there will be one so we have to be prepared to be able to identify that, help people then change behaviors and be able to treat any problems that are associated with that,” she says.

As as far as some of those resources go, things like Narcan and test strips, you can order them right off the OASAS website and they’ll be shipped to your home for free.

​ ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New York State is investing millions of dollars in harm reduction strategies to address the deadly fentanyl and opioid epidemic, but a veterinary medicine drug is complicating the way addiction can be treated.

People in Rochester are seeing the impacts of xylazine in the illicit street supply. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the tranquilizer is increasingly being found in the U.S. illegal drug supply and linked to overdose deaths. Xylazine, which is not approved for use in people, can be life-threatening and is especially dangerous when combined with opioids, like fentanyl.

Andrea Tudisco is a registered nurse with Regional Health Reach, a Rochester Regional Health, grant-funded street medicine program, providing direct care where it’s needed most.

“We’ve seen a lot of drug use of skin infections and open wounds due to IV injection and xylazine coming to Rochester,” says Tudisco, who’s been working with those in the unhoused community in various locations for 20 years.
‘We practice in every setting, every specialty:’ A day at work with a PA
News 8 met up with Tudisco outside of the Father Tracey Advocacy Center on North Clinton Ave. The non-profit is a resource-rich beacon of hope in the heart of what’s considered Rochester’s open drug market.

“It’s very complicated, especially when you have people still in the street, they’re not getting to appointments or to wound care. They’re living in cold temperatures. Their feet can be wet, their clothing is wet, their nutrition; they’re not getting the diet that they need, the protein for wound healing,” Tudisco explains.

Operating around the same area is the 100% volunteer-run grassroots organization, Hope Dealers BTC. The group offers outreach through boots-on-the-ground connection, as well as out of the Latino Youth and Development Center, run off of North Clinton Ave., which also sits in one of the poorest zip codes in the state.

“There’s definitely issues with addiction and cyclical poverty. A lot of people have fallen through the cracks over the years – people who can’t read or write very well. Or, who don’t speak English well. A lot of those people actually have a lot of barriers to engaging in these resources,” says volunteer Kayla Ross.

There is currently a need for women’s bras, men’s clothing, and men’s shoes. Volunteers with Hope Dealers are also seeing the impacts of xylazine on the illicit drug supply. Ross gives an example of a recent person she was helping who chose not to engage in social services, ended up with an infection on his hand, and needed an IV.
Monroe County sees increase in fatal opioid and cocaine overdoses
“The infection worsened; he wasn’t able to pick up his antibiotics from the pharmacy because they were too expensive. And he, a few weeks ago ended up in the hospital and had part of his hand amputated,” Ross describes.

Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Commissioner of New York State’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports, says the drug market is always changing.

“So what is the next substance, what is the next adulterant? We don’t know, but I’m pretty sure there will be one so we have to be prepared to be able to identify that, help people then change behaviors and be able to treat any problems that are associated with that,” she says.

As as far as some of those resources go, things like Narcan and test strips, you can order them right off the OASAS website and they’ll be shipped to your home for free. Read More HealthRochesterFirst  

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