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Xylazine test strips expected to be distributed soon in Vermont

Two photos side-by-side. One photo shows a green box reading "rapid response xylazine test strip," with individual green packets out in front of the box. The second photo shows the back of one of those individual green packets with instructions for how to use the test strip.
Howard Center
The Howard Center in Burlington has been using xylazine test strips for about three months, and is currently experiencing high demand for them.

A test strip that can detect the presence of a dangerous animal tranquilizer in street drugs may soon be more widely available in Vermont.

The Vermont Department of Health says it's purchasing test strips to identify xylazine, which is sometimes added to drugs like fentanyl.

Xylazine was involved in 31 of the 95 opioid overdose deaths so far in 2023 recorded by the state.

More from Vermont Public: Health officials concerned as more fatal opioid overdoses in Vermont involve animal tranquilizer xylazine

Kelly Dougherty is the Health Department's Deputy Commissioner for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, and says xylazine is especially dangerous when mixed with opioids.

"Because it's not an opioid, it doesn't respond to Narcan — or Naloxone — the opioid reversal drug, so it can be harder to revive someone if they are using a drug that has xylazine in it," she said.

The Howard Center in Burlington, which offers help to people experiencing drug addiction, has been using a limited supply of xylazine test strips for about three months.

That's according to Dan Hall, who is the director of outpatient services for the Howard Center, and who says test strips can help.

"We don't have a ton of statistical data yet, but anecdotally the demand for them has kind of ebbed and flowed, and right now I would say we are in a high demand for them," Hall said. "So we're giving them out regularly, and what we hear back from clients is, clients are using them, and they're working for clients."

The Health Department expects to have the strips ready for distribution before the end of September, and the plan is to send them to state harm reduction agencies, as they did with fentanyl test strips.

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A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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