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The White House on Wednesday issued an unprecedented warning about xylazine, the veterinary tranquilizer increasingly found in the illicit opioid supply. Beginning today, the substance will be classified as an “emerging drug threat” — the first designation of its kind.

The announcement and accompanying notification to Congress from Rahul Gupta, the White House’s top drug policy official, comes as xylazine — also known as “tranq” — continues to spread throughout U.S. cities. In Philadelphia, especially, it has caused a public health crisis by causing overdoses and painful, dangerous skin wounds in people who inject drugs adulterated with xylazine.

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The announcement has little immediate impact, Gupta conceded in a press call with reporters. But the White House will publish a “whole-of-government, nationwide plan” to address xylazine within 90 days, he said. And moving forward, Gupta added, the White House and Congress will work to evaluate adding xylazine to the controlled substances schedule, as well as improve testing, data collection, and public awareness.

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