By causing fatal side effects like skin rotting, a new drug called Xylazine or “tranq” has caused significant mayhem in cities all over the United States.
In 2022, a viral video spread throughout the internet where citizens showcased unusual behaviour in Philadelphia, US. This situation prompted several conspiracy theories that they were affected by a “zombie virus”.
As it turns out, the condition was a deadly side effect of a new drug, Xylazine, used as a veterinarian sedative. This drug is reportedly causing people’s skin to rot and deteriorate.
What exactly is Xylazine?
Xylazine, which is more popularly known as “tranq”, “tranq dope”, or “zombie drug”, is an animal tranquilliser commonly used as an anaesthetic or muscle relaxant for horses and cows.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States approves the usage of Xylazine for veterinary purposes, it is unsafe for humans to consume it because it is non-opioid. In addition, a non-opioid overdose does not allow humans to respond to Naloxone, the most common overdose reversal treatment.
Therefore, Time magazine reported that Xylazine spread is causing a public health threat in the country.
At first, Xylazine was used to cut heroin, but health authorities have recently discovered it in fentanyl, cocaine and other illicit drugs, as reported by the New York Post.
According to the FDA, it is challenging to determine Xylazine exposure from opioid overdose as the side effects of the Tranq are similar to those of opioid use.
The Deadly Symptoms of The Zombie Drug
The sedative-like side effects of Xylazine include excessive sleepiness, respiratory depression, and open wounds that, with repetitive contact, can deteriorate severely and spread quickly. If ignored, the crusty ulcerations could become Eschar or dead skin requiring amputation.
“Tranq essentially turns individuals into zombies. I had never had any scars before nine months ago. Now,” Sam, a 28-year-old man, told Sky News, “my ankles and feet have holes in them.”
Because Xylazine acts as a tranquilliser, higher doses knock users out. Fentanyl cut with Xylazine could cause consumers to faint and reawaken countless hours later, unlike opioids’ blissful semi-awakeness. Someone who uses drugs like this has a much higher risk of getting hurt, including sexual assault or a car accident.
However, because “tranq” is not classified as a controlled drug for either humans or animals, leaving it in a puzzling and frightening grey area, hospitals rarely screen for Xylazine with routine toxicology testing.
The Zombie Drug Journey
While Xylazine is popping up in cities all over the United States, it traces back to Puerto Rico, according to the country’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
According to the DEA, Xylazine’s entry into the American drug market has followed a similar trajectory to fentanyl in previous years. It began expanding into the southern states in 2021 and is now moving west. As a result, California is now the state where it is most common.
Xylazine has had a significantly severe impact on Philadelphia. Data indicate that in 2021, Xylazine was present in a remarkable 90% of the lab-tested drug supply.
The drug appeared to have tainted a sizeable portion of the drug distribution in Pittsburgh as it travelled across the state. As of February 3rd, Prevention Point Pittsburgh reports that Tranq is anecdotally known to be present in the bulk of the region’s “bad bags.”
As the Department of Health of New York City reported 2,668 overdose fatalities in the city in 2021, trends regarding “tranq” have become apparent. Accordingly, experts caution that Xylazine may make the current drug crisis worse.
The prevalence of the drug, in the opinion of Dr Gary Tsai, head of substance abuse prevention and control at the LA County Public Health Department, “would increase deaths from overdoses.”
The Los Angeles Times quoted Tsai as saying, “The primary worry is we’re already in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in history, both nationally and locally.”
In 36 states nationwide, authorities found Xylazine, per a 2022 study released in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
According to the Times, the substance was in 25% of samples in New York City alone.
The Department of Health in San Francisco reported earlier this month that four overdose victims had low levels of Xylazine in their systems, indicating that the drug may be concealed in other substances without the users’ knowledge.
There could be more, Tsai said with a warning.
People who resemble zombies may become commonplace in American cities until this new threat is under control.