First Xylazine Death Confirmed in Santa Clara County

Officials urge steps to reduce overdose, including use of naloxone for suspected overdoses since xylazine is often mixed with opioids

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. – The County of Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner on Monday confirmed the first resident to have died from xylazine poisoning in the county. Xylazine, also known as tranq, is a veterinary tranquilizer with no approved use in humans and is increasingly detected in drug supplies across the country, leading to deadly overdoses and serious wounds.

A 36-year-old man was found unresponsive in San José, died in late February, and later tested positive for drugs including xylazine and fentanyl through postmortem toxicology. Xylazine is often added to fentanyl to extend the opioid’s euphoric effects, without users’ knowledge.  

“This tragic event is an important alert to the community that xylazine is now present in drugs in Santa Clara County,” said Dr. Michelle Jorden, County of Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner. “The last thing I want is to see more deaths due to xylazine here, but sadly, the experience of the rest of the country indicates there may be more to come.”

Reports from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration indicate that xylazine is often mixed with opioids like fentanyl and heroin. Although xylazine overdose is not reversed by naloxone, the life-saving medication should still be administered to people experiencing overdose to reverse the opioid component of the overdose. Naloxone would not harm someone under the influence of xylazine.

“Community members need to be even more vigilant with how and what they are using, with xylazine now in Santa Clara County,” said Dr. Tiffany Ho, Medical Director of the County Behavioral Health Services Department. “It is critical to still administer naloxone and call 911 when encountering someone with an overdose, since xylazine is often mixed with opioids for which naloxone could still make a life-and-death difference.”

Xylazine can slow down the nervous system and make breathing and heart rate slower. If someone is unresponsive, call 911, administer naloxone, and perform rescue breathing. If xylazine is present, they may still be very drowsy even after receiving naloxone.

“Seeing what is happening in other parts of the country, and now knowing it has hit us here at home, we want to prevent more people from dying and suffering other serious consequences of xylazine,” said Dr. Akanksha Vaidya, Assistant Health Officer and manager of the Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Program for the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. “The County is working with community partner organizations to offer health education to communities that might be using or encountering people overdosing on xylazine.”

Testing for this drug is not yet available in all emergency room or health care settings. The Public Health Department is alerting local doctors to its increasing prevalence in the drug supply. Xylazine can cause wounds. See a doctor immediately if you have a wound from using xylazine, and keep it clean and covered to avoid infection.

Naloxone has recently been approved by the federal government for over-the-counter distribution at pharmacies and is available for free from many community sites. People who are ready to seek treatment for substance use can contact their primary care doctor or phone the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Call Center at 1-800-704-0900, 24 hours a day, for services in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Mandarin.

For additional information on strategies to stop harm from xylazine overdoses, visit The County of Santa Clara makes available online data about deaths, including those under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner.


News Release


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