Tennessee’s General Assembly passed the Drug of the Living Dead Act this past April, which went into effect as of July 1, 2023. The act adds xylazine and its chemical equivalents to the list of Schedule III drugs prohibited by Tennessee state law. The act comes in response to the Biden administration’s recent designation of xylazine as an “emerging threat,” as well as an increase in overdose deaths linked to xylazine. Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer, often referred to as “tranq” or “dope tranq,” that has not been approved for use by humans. Xylazine is often mixed with other drugs such as heroin, xanax, or fentanyl, so individuals often are not aware that they have taken xylazine when they use illicit drugs.
Although xylazine is often found mixed with fentanyl, whose effects can be reversed with Narcan, no reversal agent has been found for xylazine yet. This puts individuals who knowingly or unknowingly use the tranquilizer at serious risk of overdose. In addition, as humans consume a drug designed for use on animals, we are beginning to discover some significant side-effects of xylazine use. Concerningly, xylazine use has been causing wounds on certain individuals that can become so severe, the affected limb must be amputated.
Under the Drug of the Living Dead act, it is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days incarceration and/or fines up to $2,500 to knowingly possess xylazine and its equivalents. If an individual is charged with knowingly manufacturing, delivering, or selling xylazine and its equivalents, they will face a Class C felony punishable by three to fifteen years incarceration and/or fines up to $10,000. The only exception to this rule is possession of xylazine for legitimate veterinary purposes.
If you encounter someone who you believe may be overdosing, call emergency medical services and administer Narcan (naloxone) as soon as possible. While xylazine does not respond to naloxone, this will counteract any opiates which may be causing the person to overdose. Tennessee’s Good Samaritan Law grants civil immunity to those who administer Narcan to someone they reasonably believe to be overdosing, so you can prioritize saving lives over any legal concerns.
As always, if you or a loved one has been charged with possession or distribution of xylazine, Best & Brock’s skilled legal team is prepared to handle your case. Our attorneys stay up to date on drug laws in Tennessee and Georgia to ensure we can best serve our clients’ legal needs. Please reach out at (423) 641-8020 or fill out this short online form to set up a free consultation.