"In June 2020, the presence of xylazine, a veterinary sedative, was first detected as an active cut in heroin/fentanyl MADDS samples but in very low or trace quantities from 2 sites. By fall 2020, the ratio of xylazine to other active drugs had increased, and by the end of the year, xylazine was identified in 6.3% of MADDS samples (13.4% of fentanyl, 22.2% of heroin) and detected at all sites. At the close of 2020, some samples were found to contain more xylazine than fentanyl (eg, https://DrugsData.org/9661).

The stimulant supply also exhibited dynamic changes during 2020. In prior work,21 FTIR scans of cocaine street samples found few active cuts, the modal cut being levamisole, a deworming agent. However, the 2020 samples exhibited high ratios of phenacetin, an obsolete pain-relieving medication unavailable in the United States. The high ratio of phenacetin found in powder cocaine (eg, https://drugsdata.org/9491) and crack (rock) cocaine samples (eg, https://drugsdata.org/9314) across MADDS sites was of concern because it was unexpected and, if ingested, may have negative health effects for people regularly using cocaine. Phenacetin is a carcinogen and can be harmful to the kidneys,28,29 which is of concern for PWUD. In many drug markets, phenacetin is a common active cut of cocaine. Its presence in 17.1% of cocaine samples and in high ratio (eg, https://drugsdata.org/9588) suggests that cocaine supply chains in Massachusetts were disrupted by SARS-CoV-2. The prevalence of phenacetin might have been to “stretch” the available cocaine supply. Our review of the literature on xylazine and phenacetin prompted an informational bulletin on both substances in early 2021."


Green, T. C., Olson, R., Jarczyk, C., Erowid, E., Erowid, F., Thyssen, S., Wightman, R., Del Pozo, B., Michelson, L., Consigli, A., Reilly, B., & Ruiz, S. (2022). Implementation and Uptake of the Massachusetts Drug Supply Data Stream: A Statewide Public Health-Public Safety Partnership Drug Checking Program. Journal of public health management and practice : JPHMP, 28(Suppl 6), S347–S354. doi.org/10.1097/PHH.0000000000001581.