Emerging drug threat focus of Rep. Caraveo’s first bill in Congress

Yadira Caraveo
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Yadira Caraveo, congresswoman for Colorado’s 8th Congressional District, left, smiles as she arrives on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022.

Freshman congresswoman Yadira Caraveo is using her first bill in Congress to target the drug epidemic.

Democrat Caraveo has teamed up with fellow freshman, Republican Rep. Mike Collins of Georgia, to introduce the Testing, Rapid Analysis, and Narcotic Quality  (TRANQ) Research Act. The bill would direct more research on existing and emerging illicit drugs that contain xylazine.

Xylazine, also known as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” is a non-opioid tranquilizer used by veterinarians, and has increasingly shown up on the streets mixed with other drugs like fentanyl. Public health officials warn the mixture has increasingly been linked to overdose deaths around the country.

“Addictive, dangerous substances like opioids have wreaked havoc in Colorado – and we have to begin now to stop xylazine in its tracks,” said Caraveo in a statement, noting that, as a doctor, she’s seen first hand the impact of drugs on families in her Adams County community. 

Caraveo and Collins both serve on the Science, Space and Technology committee, and the leaders of the committee, Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Ranking Member Zoe Loefgren of California are also sponsoring the bill.

“I’m proud to introduce my first piece of legislation, a bipartisan effort to start gathering the information we need to head off the next major addictive substance.This important effort will help keep our families safe and let those who are hurting focus on healing from the opioid crisis,” Caraveo added.

“This legislation will provide support to law enforcement across the country by advancing research on dangerous fentanyl additives that are putting public safety officers’ lives at risk – including those guarding our borders,” said Collins in a statement. “With the rise of this deadly drug killing so many Americans, we must act.”

The bill comes as the US Drug Enforcement Administration issued an alert early this week about the widespread threat of fentanyl mixed with Xylazine.

“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” said Administrator Anne Milgram in the alert, noting that her organization has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 states.

Colorado coroners have started seeing deaths linked to Xylazine-laced fentanyl

The bill would direct the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) to support science and research to identify and detect illicit drugs containing “xylazine, novel synthetic opioids, or other emerging substances of concern,” as well as develop new tools and techniques to measure these drugs' presence. 

The bill would also support private and public partnerships to develop best practices for handling and analysis of drugs containing xylazine, as well as provide research opportunities to detect and identify xylazine and other emerging drugs of concern.