Many people experiment with new street drugs. In the past several months, however, labs across the country have come across a new threat to the health of people who use drugs. Xylazine, a drug that originally was used to drug large animals like cows, is showing up in the blood of overdose cases. People with xylazine in their system also usually have an opioid or sedative. Experts believe that it is an additive that users don’t know about, meant to amplify the effects of another drug. Unfortunately, it also boosts the life-threatening side effects that give way to deadly overdoses.

Why is Xylazine called Tranq Dope?

Xylazine is actually an animal tranquilizer that is not an opioid. As such, it does not respond well to the nasal spray Narcan, which is an intervention that ha save the lives of countless  opioid users.

You may have seen viral videos of groups of people stooped over on the streets of our cities.  These haunting images are the result of xylazine being ingested en masse by the opioid-using population of a given city, and has earned it the name “tranq dope.”

Tranq dope also is known for causing abscesses in the arms and legs of people who inject it, which is earned it the reputation as a “skin rotting zombie drug.”

Why Is Xylazine In The Drug Supply?

Xylazine has been found in drugs periodically around the country, both in seizures of drugs and in overdose victims. In Virginia, where it has led to several overdose deaths, officials have seen it more often. But they’ve also seen it in the past. “It’s one of a plethora of drugs that are coming out. They pop up, disappear, pop up, disappear – and this is one that’s been around for a while,” Dr. Chris Holstege with the University of Virginia told WAVY.

A spotlight has only recently been shown on the drug in Virginia because of a recent tragedy where a local woman was charged with murder. Her baby had accidentally ingested a fentanyl pill the woman had planned to take. The coroners found the xylazine in the baby’s bloodstream during the autopsy. Her parents have been charged with murder.

While there are increases in the combination of the two drugs in overdose victims, Holstege said there are often people who test positive for both drugs in the emergency. It causes difficulty breathing and heavy sedation.

Drug Dealers Sell More Counterfeit And Adultered Pills

Counterfeit pills usually cause overdose deaths that contain adulterants like fentanyl or xylazine. Teenagers and young adults acquire drugs online on apps like Snapchat or Signal. Drug dealers will drop off pills in the middle of the night or offer to mail them discreetly. Because of the anonymous nature of these transactions, it’s hard for police to stop a spate of bad pills. Arrests take time.

Experts in the addiction industry often recommend that people practice harm reduction, such as carrying naloxone and always using drugs with a “bud.””.

The best way to prevent an overdose is to stop using opioids and other addictive drugs. Getting help is possible. Treatment and recovery can help you reclaim your life if you think you have a drug problem. Ask for help; you may save your own life!