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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses in 2021. Sadly, opioid-related deaths continue to rise, with new drugs on the scene adding to the dangers. One of the newest drugs added to the illicit opioid supply is Xylazine (tranq), which increases the risk of opioid overdose and death.
What is Tranq?
Xylazine, commonly referred to as tranq is a non-opiate animal tranquilizer, muscle relaxant, anesthetic, and analgesic. It is not approved for human use by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because it severely depresses the central nervous system. States such as New York and Florida have made Xylazine a controlled substance, making it illegal to use or sell. The federal government is considering adding it to the DEA controlled substance list.
From Prescription Opioids to Tranq-Adulterated Fentanyl
Over the decades, the substances fueling the opioid epidemic have changed. The CDC describes the change as three distinct waves:
- The 1990s: prescription opioids (semi-synthetic opioids, natural opioids, and methadone)
- 2010: an increase in heroin use
- 2013: synthetic opioids, mostly involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl, often in combination with cocaine, heroin, or counterfeit pills
Tranq began showing up in the drug supply chain in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the mid-2010s. At that time, tranq was added to other substances, usually heroin, to add bulk and thus increase the drug dealers’ profits. Used this way, tranq is referred to as an adulterant chemical. In addition to increasing the seller’s profits, adulterant chemicals are used to counterfeit another drug or increase the effects of a drug.
Tranq is now found throughout the entire United States in many different illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin. Some drug users now seek out tranq alone as their drug of choice.
The Many Names Of Tranq
On the street, Xylazine is known by many names, including Tranq, Zombie Drug, Zombie Dope, Sleep-cut, and Tranq Dope. The brand names of legally sold Xylazine are Chanazine, Sedazine, Anased, and Rompun.
The Dangers of Tranq
Intended for veterinary use only, tranq is proving to cause serious dangers to humans that include agonizing wounds, rotting flesh, amputation, dangerous blackout states, and death.
- Flesh Wounds and Amputation: Injecting tranq or tranq-adulterated drugs causes skin wounds to erupt. The wounds have dead, scaly tissue that falls off. They itch and ooze. If the wounds are not treated properly, they may lead to amputation. The wounds do not always appear at the injection site but may be on the individual’s forearms or shins. Medical professionals are perplexed at how and why the wounds are so extreme and, when they first appear, resemble chemical burns.
- Dangerous Blackouts: Using tranq causes blackout stupors that can last hours. During the blackout, the user is extremely vulnerable and may become the victim of a robbery, rape, or another crime.
- Does Not Respond to Naloxone: Tranq is not an opioid and does not respond to Narcan (Naloxone). If the user has taken an adulterated drug, Narcan will reverse the effects of the opioid, restoring the individual’s breathing ability, but not the effects of the tranq. The person generally will need additional life-saving measures at a hospital.
- Stroke-like Symptoms: The person seems to be okay one minute and then suddenly develops severe stroke-like symptoms. For some people, the symptoms may not develop until days after they have used tranq and then occur suddenly due to the drug’s ability to remain in the person’s body for days.
Overdose and Death: Tranq causes drowsiness, a slowed heart rate, depressed breathing, low blood pressure, low body temperature, and unconsciousness. If a person overdoses on tranq, or a tranq-adulterated opioid, they increase their chances of brain injury, coma, and death.
A Few Important Facts
- Many people are not aware the drugs they are taking contain tranq.
- In 2022, the DEA found Xylazine in 23% of seized fentanyl powder and 7% of seized fentanyl pills.
- Tranq can be injected, inhaled, snorted, smoked, or swallowed.
- Tranq has been found in heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, benzodiazepines, prescription opioids, methadone, gabapentin, and alcohol.
There is Help
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, now is the time to get the help you need. At Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona, our skilled professionals can help. Take back control of your life. Call us today.