AVMA Endorses Federal Legislation to Address Illicit Xylazine

A newly proposed law backed by the AVMA would help combat the emerging threat posed by illicit xylazine while protecting veterinary access to this important animal sedative.

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act was introduced into Congress on Tuesday, culminating weeks of work by the AVMA and other important stakeholders. The bill’s provisions would equip law enforcement with additional tools to stop xylazine trafficking while maintaining veterinarians’ ability to legitimately use xylazine.

If it becomes law, the legislation will make the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, or possession of illicit xylazine subject to Schedule III penalties under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Illicit use of xylazine includes any use, or intended use, in people and would address any diversion of xylazine from veterinary sources. At the same time, the legitimate veterinary uses would remain under their current prescription status.

Highlights of the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act

  • Manufacture, distribution, dispensing, and possession of illicit xylazine would be subject to Schedule III penalties, engaging the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and allowing for harsher punishments when xylazine is handled illegally.
  • The legitimate importation, manufacture, dispensing, and administration of xylazine for non-human species would not be subject to the restrictions and requirements of scheduling.
  • Any diversion of xylazine from the veterinary supply chain for illicit use would be subject to the penalties of a Schedule III drug.
  • Manufacturers and distributors would report sales of veterinary xylazine to the DEA through a tracking system that would identify unusual activity or changes in ordering patterns.
  • The DEA would submit a report to Congress detailing the prevalence and impacts of illicit xylazine use in the United States.


Why are lawmakers looking at xylazine?

Illicit xylazine is increasingly showing up in street drugs as traffickers have begun mixing it with fentanyl and other narcotics. This potent combination poses grave health and safety risks to human users. Because xylazine isn’t an opioid, its effects can’t be reversed with the opioid-reversing drug naloxone, complicating the efforts of first responders and emergency physicians.

The AVMA does not believe there is substantial diversion of xylazine from veterinary channels, and the bill includes provisions to identify and address any that does occur. The AVMA will continue working with lawmakers, federal agencies, and stakeholders to help combat illicit xylazine while making clear the importance of xylazine in veterinary medicine and the need for veterinarians to continue to access it for the animals under our care.

“The AVMA fully supports this congressional effort to combat illicit xylazine,” said AVMA President Dr. Lori Teller. “We urge Congress to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act quickly as it strikes the right balance of protecting our communities while preserving veterinary access to this critically important animal drug.”

The Combating Illicit Xylazine Act was introduced into Congress by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.); and Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), August Pfluger (R-Texas), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).

How can you help?

There will be a time when the voices of individual veterinarians, team members, and animal owners will be crucial to secure passage of this important bill. The AVMA is actively engaged with the legislation’s progress and will alert advocates through the Congressional Advocacy Network when you can have the greatest impact by reaching out to your members of Congress about the importance of xylazine in veterinary medicine and the urgency to pass the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act. In the meantime, sign up for the Congressional Advocacy Network to make sure you receive this notice.