PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Brown University is sounding the alarm over troubling new trends in the state’s opioid crisis.

The university released the results of a two-year study last month which analyzed the contents of the local drug supply.

The study found that 44% of the samples contained xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer that’s not approved for human use.

The drug, commonly referred to as “tranq dope,” is a powerful sedative that can cause unresponsiveness, drowsiness, low blood pressure, slow heart rate and decreased breathing.

The Rhode Island Department of Health issued a warning Wednesday on the increased presence of xylazine in the state’s illicit drug supply.

While xylazine isn’t an opioid, the health department said it can complicate an overdose by causing deep sedation that can last hours.

The health department also warned that drugs laced with xylazine tend to also contain fentanyl, which is why drug users should have naloxone on hand in case of an overdose.

Even though naloxone can prevent deadly overdoses, the health department said it will not reverse the effects of xylazine. This means an overdosing person may remain sedated long after naloxone is administered.

That’s why Sen. Jack Reed helped ensure several federal laws were passed with provisions designed to keep fentanyl off the streets, crack down on drug traffickers and prevent overdoses.

“This is a crisis that is trending in the wrong direction and the federal government needs to step up and be a reliable partner,” Reed said.

“We’ve got to be smart and strategic,” he continued. “We can’t just hand out naloxone kits and call it a day. We’ve got to get at the root causes of this crisis, strengthen education, outreach, and enforcement, and go hard after the people who are profiting from poisoning our communities.”

Reed said Brown University is continuing to research the effects of xylazine and ways to treat the deep sedation it causes.

“This challenge is clear and urgent,” Deputy Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health Dr. Megan Ranney said. “Here at the Brown University School of Public Health, our faculty and researchers are forging new paths with new thinking and new approaches to reduce overdoses, reduce stigma, save lives and promote recovery.”