It is highly important to stay educated on new information in the substance abuse and recovery community. There’s a killer drug being masked under other opioids wreaking havoc on vulnerable communities; it’s name is xylazine

Since the late 2000s, xylazine usage has been on the rise. Xylazine emerged in Philadelphia in the late 2000s, floating all around the country since then. While xylazine overdoses have yet to be properly researched, its association with overdoses have increased 20 fold between 2015 and 2020. 

Xylazine is a non-opioid utilized by veterinarians as a muscle relaxant, sedative, anesthetic, and analgesic. It has not been cleared for human usage or consumption by the FDA. Colloquially, xylazine is known as “tranq” or “tranq dope”, a name associated with its tranquilizing effects; it’s known as a central nervous system depressant.

How is Xylazine Used? Illicit Use and Typical Administration

When used licitly, xylazine is a liquid available in 20, 100, or 300 mg/mL. It can be administered on its own, or in conjunction with other anesthetics such a ketamine or barbiturates. In procedures, xylazine can be used intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally for sedative and relaxant properties in animals.

Illicitly, xylazine is often mixed with other opioids to enhance their effects or increase the drug weight. Most commonly, xylazine is combined with heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. People may seek xylazine combined with fentanyl due to its extension of fentanyl’s typically short, euphoric high. This is highly dangerous, as fentanyl has a high overdose rate individually. 

Those using other drugs may not even be aware of xylazine being combined with their substance(s) of choice. In 2021, 91% of heroin and fentanyl samples from Philadelphia contained xylazine. The following year, the DEA reported that about 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills contained xylazine. Even more, xylazine can also be combined with alcohol and benzodiazepines. 

Similarly to its intended use, xylazine can be injected, but it can also be used intranasally. Its liquid form can be dried, appearing to be either white or slightly brown in color. Due to its frequent combination with other illicit drugs, xylazine can be difficult to identify on its own.

Xylazine Effects:

As discussed, xylazine is a central nervous system depressant. This can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, disorientation, amnesia, slow breathing, hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, as well as low heart rate. The effects of xylazine can range from minutes to hours depending on how much is used, and what other substances are potentially used with it. It is extremely important to note that while xylazine is a non-opioid, it can mimic the same respiratory depression opioids are known to exhibit. At extremely high doses, or in combination with other central nervous system depressants, xylazine can cause:

  • Loss of physical sensation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • An extreme intensification of other drugs (which can make overdose prevention and treatment complicated)

Additionally, xylazine is known to cause wounds, including skin ulcers and abscesses, after long term usage. These wounds tend to be located on the arms and legs away from the site of injection.

Protection: Spread Knowledge, Save Lives

So now that you know more about xylazine, you may be wondering what you can do to help your recovery community be safe.

  • Spread the knowledge: Share resources (like this blog) with your community about xylazine! Research for xylazine alone is still pending, however, the research we do have about the drug informs the public about how it’s being combined with other drugs, often without the user’s knowledge.
  • Be prepared: Narcan (Naloxone) is typically used in the devastating case of an overdose. Although xylazine is combined with opioids, Narcan (Naloxone) is less effective to combat an overdose including xylazine. Due to its non-opioid nature, and the way xylazine impacts breathing, naloxone is less effective to combat an overdose including xylazine. You should use Naloxone regardless of the presence of xylazine. In case of an overdose, be sure to call 911, administer Naloxone, and provide the person rescue breaths until professional help arrives.

The more knowledge spread about xylazine, the safer our communities can be! Did we miss any important information about xylazine? Let us know in the comments!

If you or a loved one is battling addiction, please call 443-960-4673 to learn about Elevate Recovery Centers addiction treatment programs.