Press Release

Welch Bill to Improve Xylazine Detection Techniques Advances Out of Committee, Following Roundtable on Overdose Crisis in Vermont

May 10, 2023

Senator Peter Welch’s (D-VT) Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act advanced out of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today with bipartisan support, a significant step forward in enacting this important bill to expand our understanding of xylazine, a sedative also known as Tranq, and other novel synthetic drugs now present in the illicit drug supply. This follows a Monday roundtable discussion hosted by Sen. Welch in Burlington on the growing number of overdoses in Vermont and the increased presence of fentanyl, xylazine, and other synthetic opioids in the local supply of many illicit drugs. 

“Vermont has one of the most sophisticated substance use disorder treatment systems in the country—but the nature of this crisis is changing as the drug supply changes. To keep our loved ones safe from overdose, we need tools that meet the moment, including better data on the drug supply,” said Sen. Welch. “I’m proud that my TRANQ bill has passed out of committee, and I’m grateful to the researchers, advocates, peers in recovery, first responders, and local officials who took the time to speak with me about this crisis during our discussion on Monday. I’m committed to doing all I can to support the work happening on the ground in Vermont to end this crisis and keep our communities safe and healthy.” 

Sen. Welch’s roundtable discussion brought together representatives from the University of Vermont Medical Center, the Burlington Fire Department, the Turning Point Center, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, and state and local government to discuss changes to the local drug supply and the importance of facilitating access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) for opioid use disorder and contingency management protocols for stimulant users.  

Participants noted that the increased prevalence of fentanyl and xylazine necessitates new strategies to prevent overdoses and support recovery from substance use disorder. Research efforts like those outlined in the TRANQ bill serve an important role in developing these strategies, helping law enforcement, medical professionals, and researchers understand the scope and scale of the opioid crisis and allocate resources.  

The Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to take steps to enhance understanding of Tranq and other novel synthetic drugs, develop new tests for detection, and establish partnerships with front—line entities that are often the first points of contact with new street drugs.  The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). 

Tranq use has spread rapidly throughout the country. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports skyrocketing detections of xylazine, with growth between 2020 and 2021 of 61% in the Northeast. In Vermont, xylazine was reported present in almost 30% of opioid-related accidental and undetermined deaths With overdose deaths increasing for third consecutive year in the state, Vermont’s community of recovery professionals need additional support and resources to understand, treat, and prevent the use of fentanyl, xylazine, and other dangerous illicit drugs.    

According to the DEA, “the presence of xylazine in illicit drug combinations and its detection in fatal overdoses may be more widespread than reported as a number of jurisdictions across the country may not include xylazine in forensic laboratory or toxicology testing.”   

The bill text is available HERE.