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This narrative review assessed major epidemiological trends in xylazine-involved overdoses in North America, aiming to identify harm reduction priorities
Over the past two decades, xylazine-involved overdoses have been rapidly rising in North America and exhibit few signs of slowing down, representing a serious public health epidemic. Numerous factors may have contributed to this, including limited epidemiological surveillance and drug checking for xylazine and emerging novel adulterants; further, barriers to comprehensive, trauma-informed, non-stigmatizing treatment and social services have also exacerbated this issue. While several epidemiological and ethnographic studies have assessed these factors in the USA, limited evidence is available in Canada where xylazine emerged more recently. This underscores the need for additional research and harm reduction measures. Harm reduction-informed public health guidelines and programs are urgently needed to promote a safer supply, strengthen the healthcare system capacity to prevent and respond to xylazine-involved overdoses, and address social and structural disparities in health outcomes.