What is Xylazine?

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Xylazine is a veterinary tranquilizer that is not approved for human use and also known as tranq.

Tranq has been linked to an increase in overdose deaths in the United States. Xylazine is commonly used in combination with other drugs like illicit fentanyl, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

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Xylazine Drug

Xylazine or tranq is a depressant of the CNS (central nervous system) that can cause drowsiness and amnesia. The drug can also slow heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing to dangerously low levels. 

Taking xylazine in combination with CNS depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids heightens the risk of fatal overdose. 

Xylazine is only approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for veterinary use. It is available in the following liquid solutions: 

  • 20 mg/mL
  • 100 mg/mL
  • 300 mg/mL 

Xylazine can be administered alone or in combination with anesthetics like ketamine or barbiturates). The medication is injected intramuscularly or intravenously, and it can also be taken orally. 

Tranq first came to prominence in Puerto Rico before crossing to the United States, appearing in Philadelphia. Recent research indicates that 91% of opioid samples also contained xylazine.

Xylazine for Humans

Xylazine is only approved for veterinary applications. The drug is used for sedation, calming, and anesthesia on many animal species, including horses, elk, and cattle. 

Although tranq is not approved for use in humans, xylazine abuse is becoming a growing concern in the U.S. Alerts, advisories, and reports in the media suggest an increased prevalence of xylazine as a cutting agent in drugs of abuse like heroin and fentanyl. Where the effects of heroin (a semi-synthetic opioid) and fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) are fleeting, tranq can induce a euphoric high that lasts for six to eight hours. 

Xylazine was synthesized by Bayer Company in 1962 and studied in for its potential use in humans as a hypnotic, analgesic, and anesthetic, but clinical trials were terminated as xylazine was found to trigger severe hypotension and CNS effects.

Xylazine Side Effects

The most reported side effects of xylazine include:  

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech 
  • Disorientation
  • Blurred vision
  • Sedation
  • Hypotension
  • Impaired judgment
  • Bradycardia
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)
  • Respiratory depression
  • Coma

Xylazine Abuse

If xylazine is a veterinary drug, why are people abusing it? 

Although xylazine is a non-opioid, the substance works similarly to heroin and other depressants by blocking pain signaling and boosting the production of dopamine in the brain. When taken for recreational purposes, tranq can induce a long-lasting euphoric high. 

Xylazine is often used unwittingly by humans. Increasingly, traffickers are using the drug to adulterate other substances, including: 

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Cocaine
  • MDMA
  • Counterfeit prescription pills 

Any non-veterinary use of xylazine can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

In addition to the risk of overdose and addiction, using xylazine can trigger severe lesions and abscesses. The City of Philadelphia Overdose Fatality Review reports that there was a fourfold increase in emergency department visits associated with skin injuries and soft tissue injuries from 2019 to 2021.

Overdose

From 2010 to 2015 in the United States, xylazine was detected in fewer than 2% of fatal overdoses. Tranq is now associated with almost one-third of deadly overdoses in Philadelphia. 

In the event of xylazine overdose, administration of naloxone – an opioid overdose reversal medication – can be effective. Xylazine is often combined with opioids like heroin and fentanyl. 

Administering naloxone will not address the issue of depressed breathing common to xylazine overdoses, though. Additionally, the presence of xylazine may reduce the effectiveness of naloxone. 

Call 911 immediately if you suspect a xylazine or tranq overdose.

Xylazine Withdrawal

The symptoms of tranquilizer withdrawal typically present within 24 hours of the last dose. Upon presentation, symptoms can last for two to four weeks. This is longer than the withdrawal process for opioids. 

The symptoms of tranquilizer withdrawal vary in intensity depending on the duration and extent of abuse. 

Symptoms

Physical Xylazine withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Numbness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure 

Psychological Xylazine withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Anxiety attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Suicidal ideation 

After acute withdrawal symptoms subside, the post-acute withdrawal stage begins. The most common lingering symptoms of xylazine withdrawal include: 

  • Inability to focus
  • Anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure from everyday activities)
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Impaired problem-solving skills
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Depression
  • Intense cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Problems with concentration and focus
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced motivation
  • Memory loss
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Suicidal ideation

Addiction Treatment at California Detox

If you are addicted to xylazine, the optimum pathway to sustained recovery begins with a supervised medical detoxification. We can help you with that at California Detox. 

Over a week or so, you can withdraw from drugs like xylazine with around-the-clock clinical and emotional care on hand. Medications can streamline the intensity of cravings and can also reduce the severity of xylazine withdrawal symptoms. 

Once you have purged xylazine from your system, you can transition directly into one of the following programs: 

  • Inpatient program (residential rehab)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program (for co-occurring disorders) 

All California Detox treatment programs offer access to the following evidence-based therapies: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you are ready to reclaim your life from xylazine, reach out to admissions by calling 949.390.5377.

FAQs

Xylazine is a non-narcotic (non-opioid) medication used in veterinary medicine as a sedative and muscle relaxant. Although xylazine is not approved for use in humans, the drug is increasingly being added to street drugs. Xylazine is often discovered in combination with fentanyl (a deadly synthetic opioid).

No, xylazine is not currently a controlled substance under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).

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