May 25, 2023
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Announces New Actions to Drive Down Growing Presence of Illicit Drug Xylazine and Prevent Overdoses

Governor Hochul Announces New Actions to Drive Down Growing Presence of Illicit Drug Xylazine and Prevent Overdoses

Free Xylazine Test Strips Available Throughout New York State

New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports Webpage Educates Public on Xylazine and Overdose Response

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced new actions to address the spread of xylazine in New York State, including a new effort to supply free xylazine test strips through the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and Office of Mental Health programs, as well as directly to the public. Xylazine is a non-opioid sedative found in the unregulated drug supply with potentially harmful health impacts, especially when added to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Xylazine is not responsive to naloxone, leading to complicated fentanyl overdoses. Additional educational information about xylazine is now available on the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports website.

“Xylazine is a dangerous drug that can cause serious health complications, including overdose deaths, and New York State continues to take aggressive measures to address this growing threat,” Governor Hochul said. “These new efforts will save lives and bring much needed resources to communities that continue to experience the ongoing impact of this crisis.”

The new ordering system will enable providers and New York State residents to order test strips through a partnership with NY MATTERS, and will ensure an ongoing supply of this important harm-reduction tool across New York State. These test strips are designed to detect the presence of xylazine that has been mixed in with other substances, such as cocaine or heroin.

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) is also making xylazine test strips available to its network of Outreach and Engagement Services providers across the State and through its ongoing training programs. These efforts are being supported through New York State’s Opioid Settlement Fund and through a federal State Opioid Response Grant. To access ordering information, providers can visit the OASAS harm reduction webpage.

Xylazine is a depressant typically used in veterinary settings, and not intended or approved for human use. While it is often mixed with fentanyl, xylazine is not an opioid, and therefore is not responsive to naloxone. However, much like opioids, it is increasingly found in the unregulated drug supply across the country, in particular in the northeast. As such, it’s been designated an emerging threat by the federal government. Xylazine can additionally complicate fentanyl overdoses or cause prolonged, heavy sedation, as well as skin wounds which may require amputation in severe situations.

New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner Dr. Chinazo Cunningham said, “The presence of xylazine is a growing concern and action needs to be taken to address this issue. We are working to get important harm reduction tools into the hands of providers and individuals impacted by addiction, which strengthens our efforts to keep New Yorkers safe.”

New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “Xylazine is an extremely dangerous drug that has been linked to an growing number of overdose deaths across the nation. Increasing the availability of Xylazine test strips will help us to save lives, and I urge all OMH licensed providers to take advantage of this resource being offered by OASAS and NY Matters.”

“Increasing the availability of xylazine test strips is vital to reducing the number of deaths associated with this deadly drug,” Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “The New York State Department of Health thanks Governor Hochul for her commitment to combating this crisis, working hard to prevent opioid-related tragedies, and to the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers and their families.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, “Xylazine is a horrific drug that has worsened the overdose epidemic in communities across New York, which is why I sounded the xylazine alarm and called for action to combat this public safety and health crisis. The Biden administration responded and designated xylazine as an ‘emerging threat.’ I applaud Governor Hochul for also taking action by supplying free xylazine test strips throughout the state. I will continue working with both federal and state leaders to expand access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services to combat the growing threat of xylazine and will not stop fighting until law enforcement and public health agencies have the resources they need to stop the illicit flow of this drug and keep our communities safe.”

OASAS is continuing to educate providers and the general public on how to recognize and respond to the prevalence of this substance. In addition to the new informational page for the public, the agency recently issued guidance to providers and released a new training program regarding the risks of xylazine. The xylazine test strip program follows the creation earlier this year of a new ordering system for providers to obtain fentanyl test strips and naloxone and is part of OASAS’ efforts to expand harm reduction services throughout New York State.

New York State is receiving more than $2 billion through various settlement agreements with opioid manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies that were secured by Attorney General Letitia James. A portion of the funding from these settlements will go directly to municipalities, with the remainder deposited into a dedicated fund to support prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery efforts to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.

The same legislation that established the dedicated fund also created the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board, which is tasked with making recommendations on how settlement dollars should be allocated to best serve those in need. Board members issued their first recommendations on November 1, 2022, identifying the expansion of harm reduction services and treatment as top priorities.

New York State has instituted an aggressive, multi-pronged approach to addressing the overdose epidemic, and created a nation-leading continuum of addiction care with full prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction services. The State has worked to expand access to traditional services, including crisis services, inpatient, outpatient, and residential treatment programs, as well as medication to treat addiction, and mobile treatment and transportation services.

Governor Hochul was a member of the New York State Heroin and Opioid Task Force, which in 2016, recommended new, non-traditional services, including recovery centers, youth clubhouses, expanded peer services, and open access centers, which provide immediate assessments and referrals to care. These services have since been established in numerous communities around the State and have helped people in need access care closer to where they live.

The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports oversees one of the nation’s largest substance use disorder systems of care with approximately 1,700 prevention, treatment and recovery programs serving over 731,000 individuals per year. This includes the direct operation of 12 Addiction Treatment Centers where our doctors, nurses, and clinical staff provide inpatient and residential services to approximately 8,000 individuals per year.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474-8418
New York City: (212) 681-4640


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