WARNING: CONFRONTING IMAGES
A new drug in the US has unsettling – and in some cases deadly – consequences.
Xylazine — otherwise known as “tranq,” “tranq dope” and “zombie drug” — is wreaking havoc in major cities across the country with its devastating effects: It can literally rot the user’s skin.
The substance, which seemed to first appear in Philadelphia before migrating west to San Francisco and Los Angeles, was used for cutting heroin, but, most recently, it has been discovered in fentanyl and other illicit drugs, reported the New York Post.
While approved by the Food and Drug Administration for veterinary use, xylazine, a non-opioid, is not safe for humans, and those who overdose on the drug do not respond to naloxone, or “Narcan”, the most common overdose reversal treatment.
Xylazine causes sedative-like symptoms, such as excessive sleepiness and respiratory depression, as well as raw wounds that can become severe and spread rapidly with repeated exposure. The crusty ulcerations, which can become dead skin called eschar, can result in amputation if left untreated.
Because it is not listed as a controlled substance for animals or humans, “tranq” lands in a confusing and horrifying grey area — and hospitals rarely test for it with routine toxicology screenings.
Last month, one Philadelphia user suddenly developed xylazine-specific wounds near her opioid injection sites.
“I’d wake up in the morning crying because my arms were dying,” Tracey McCann, 39, told the New York Times.
The city reported that 90 per cent of lab-tested dope samples from 2021 contained xylazine, which can increase the risk of overdose when combined with other illicit substances.
But the lethal combination of substances is what gives xylazine its appeal — the high of the opioid, such as fentanyl, is extended with the help of “tranq.”
“It’s too late for Philly,” Shawn Westfahl, an outreach worker with Prevention Point Philadelphia, told the Times.
“Philly’s supply is saturated. If other places around the country have a choice to avoid it, they need to hear our story.”
People with substance use disorders who get hooked on the zombifying drug believe the emerging substance killed “any kind of joy” that came with getting high.
“Tranq is basically zombifying people’s bodies,” Sam, 28, told Sky News UK.
“Until nine months ago, I never had wounds. Now, there are holes in my legs and feet.”
The worrying tranq trend comes as the New York City Department of Health reported that 2668 New Yorkers died of overdoses in 2021. Experts warn that xylazine could worsen the ongoing drug epidemic.
Dr Gary Tsai, the director of substance abuse prevention and control with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, believes the drug’s prevalence “would increase deaths from overdoses”.
“The main concern is we’re already amid the worst overdose crisis in history, nationally and locally,” Dr Tsai told the Los Angeles Times.
According to a 2022 report, xylazine has been discovered in 36 states. In New York City alone, the drug was found in 25 per cent of samples, stated the Times.
Earlier this month, the San Francisco Department of Health announced that low levels of xylazine were found in the systems of four people who overdosed, suggesting that the substance can be hidden in drugs unbeknown to the users.
This story appeared in the New York Post and is reproduced with permission.
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