Skin-rotting 'zombie drug' ‘tranq’ invades major cities
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.
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 gray area — and hospitals rarely test for it with routine toxicology screenings.
Last month, one Philly user suddenly developed xylazine-specific wounds near her opioid injection sites.
Tracey McCann, 39
“I’d wake up in the morning crying because my arms were dying.”
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.
The worrying “tranq” trend comes as the New York City Department of Health reported that 2,668 New Yorkers died of overdoses in 2021.
Experts warn that xylazine could worsen the ongoing drug epidemic.
Dr. Gary Tsai
Director of substance abuse prevention
“The main concern is we’re already amid the worst overdose crisis in history, nationally and locally.”
According to a 2022 report, xylazine has been discovered in 36 states. In New York City alone, the drug was found in 25% of samples.
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