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Regina police watching for highly potent 'tranq dope' in local drug seizures

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Police in Regina are on the lookout for xylazine, a dangerous animal tranquilizer spreading into Canada’s illegal opioid supply.

Xylazine is a veterinary tranquilizer used in large animals such as horses and is not approved for use in humans.

Known as a “tranq dope” or the “zombie drug” on the street, xylazine is used to prolong the effects of opioids.

There is significant risk for users however. The drug can also lead to extended blackouts and severe abscesses that may require amputation, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Evan Bray, Chief of the Regina Police Service (RPS), told reporters on Tuesday that the drug has yet to be detected in the city.

“I don't believe, at this point it's been a significant issue in our community. But, not to say that it [won't] be,” he said.

“I'm quite confident that we'll hopefully get a bit of a heads up if we started seeing that make its way into our province.”

A total of 161 overdose incidents were reported in Regina in February of 2023.

A recent report from Health Canada revealed that xylazine was identified in 1,350 samples of drugs seized across the country in 2022.

The drug has been identified a total of 2,324 times since record-keeping began in 2015.

A main concern around xylazine is its resistance to Narcan, the opioid overdose treatment.

“It's a bit cliché to say but there is no quality control in the drug world,” Bray explained.

“That's part of the challenge that we see. We saw fentanyl, making a presence known in our community and within months, we had various different derivatives or analogs associated to fentanyl. Some were responsive to the Narcan, some were not. So, that's the problem when you've got synthetic drugs.”

Going forward, Bray said that ongoing partnerships with other law enforcement entities and the medical field will help track the progress of the drug’s spread.

“Those partnerships exist now. We have very strong partnerships with the College of Physicians with pharmacists and lots of different professions that use and are involved in the distribution or prescription of drugs. So that's one whole piece of work that we do as police agencies and I expect that that will continue,” he said.

“You really just have to understand it’s bad for you, potentially lethal for you and we have to do everything we can to limit its effects in the community.”

With files from CTV News’ Megan DeLaire.

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