The DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) has issued an alert about the increasing circulation of fentanyl mixed with xylazine, a powerful sedative known as tranq, which is approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for use in veterinary medicine.
The Growing Threat of Mixing Fentanyl and Xylazine (Tranq)
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is typically used to treat severe pain, particularly in cancer patients, but due to its potency, it’s also associated with a high risk of overdose when used illicitly.
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Xylazine is a sedative and pain reliever commonly used in veterinary medicine, especially for large animals like horses. It is not approved for human use due to its potent sedative effects and potential to cause serious side effects, including respiratory depression and severe tissue damage at injection sites.
The combination of xylazine with fentanyl significantly raises the risk of lethal drug overdoses. Importantly, xylazine is not an opioid, so the effects of an overdose involving xylazine cannot be reversed by naloxone (Narcan). That said, naloxone is still recommended in cases of suspected drug overdose. People who inject this drug mixture may suffer severe, potentially life-threatening tissue damage, including necrosis, which can lead to the need for amputation.
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report that from August 2021 to August 2022, there were 107,735 drug overdose deaths in the United States, with synthetic opioids like fentanyl implicated in 66% of these fatalities. The Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels in Mexico, largely using chemicals sourced from China, are the main sources of the fentanyl distributed throughout the United States.
Mixing Fentanyl and Xylazine Effects
When fentanyl, a potent opioid, is mixed with xylazine, a veterinary sedative, the resulting effects on the body can be severe and multifaceted:
- Profound sedation: Both drugs have strong sedative qualities. Their combination can lead to an intense level of sedation, significantly impairing consciousness and motor functions.
- Respiratory depression: Fentanyl, like other opioids, can significantly depress respiratory functions. When combined with xylazine, this effect is exacerbated, leading to dangerously slowed or even stopped breathing.
- Altered mental state: People may experience profound disorientation, confusion, and difficulty in maintaining focus or engaging in coherent thought processes due to the combined effects of these drugs on the central nervous system.
- Enhanced pain relief: While fentanyl provides significant pain relief, the addition of xylazine can augment this effect, potentially leading to an underestimation of injuries or bodily harm.
- Prolonged effects: Xylazine can prolong the effects of fentanyl, leading to an extended duration of both the desired and undesired effects of the drug combination.
- Increased risk of accidental injury: Due to the severe impairment in motor coordination and judgment, there’s an increased risk of accidents and injuries, both to the individual and others.
Understanding these effects can help medical professionals and emergency responders in effectively treating individuals who have used a combination of fentanyl and xylazine, as well as for informing public health interventions and harm reduction strategies.
Dangers of Fentanyl and Xylazine Together
The combination of fentanyl, a potent opioid, with xylazine, a strong veterinary sedative, can lead to extremely dangerous and often unpredictable effects. Key concerns include:
Increased overdose risk
The mixture dramatically heightens the risk of overdose due to the compounded sedative effects of both drugs. Fentanyl’s potent opioid properties combined with xylazine’s sedative effects can lead to severe respiratory depression, potentially resulting in fatal outcomes.
Resistance to overdose treatment
Xylazine is not an opioid, so its effects are not reversed by opioid antagonists like naloxone (Narcan). This complicates the emergency treatment of overdoses involving this drug combination.
Severe health complications
Chronic use of this drug mixture can cause serious health issues. Xylazine, in particular, is known to cause severe tissue damage and wounds, including necrosis, at injection sites. In extreme cases, this can lead to infections or the need for amputation.
Comorbidity with mental health disorders
Individuals using this combination may have an increased likelihood of suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders, which can increase the risk of addiction and the severity of health consequences.
Complications in drug treatment
The presence of xylazine complicates treatment for fentanyl addiction, as standard opioid addiction treatments may not be fully effective.
Increased public health burden
The spread of this drug combination can strain healthcare and emergency services, increasing the burden on public health systems already grappling with opioid addiction and overdose crises.
Treatment for Fentanyl and Xylazine Addiction
Treating addiction to a combination of fentanyl and xylazine involves a multi-pronged approach, given the complexity and severity of the addiction. Key aspects of this treatment include:
- Medical detoxification: Safe withdrawal is crucial, especially given the potent effects of fentanyl and the complex challenges posed by xylazine. Medical supervision in a detox facility can manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety.
- Behavioral therapies: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other counseling approaches are essential to address the psychological aspects of addiction. These therapies can help in understanding the addiction’s root causes, developing coping mechanisms, and changing behavior patterns.
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment): For fentanyl addiction, MAT using medications like methadone or buprenorphine can be effective. However, the treatment for xylazine addiction is more complex, as there are no specific medications for its addiction or withdrawal.
- Support groups and peer counseling: Engaging in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can provide peer support and a sense of community, which is vital for long-term recovery.
- Dual diagnosis treatment: If there are co-occurring mental health issues, a dual diagnosis treatment approach is necessary. This involves treating the substance use disorder alongside any mental health disorders.
- Holistic approaches: Incorporating holistic treatments such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can support overall well-being and recovery.
- Aftercare and relapse prevention: A comprehensive aftercare plan may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and strategies to manage triggers and prevent relapse.
- Education and family therapy: Educating the person and their family about addiction, its effects, and coping strategies is essential. Family therapy can also help repair and strengthen family relationships.
Each treatment plan should be individualized, considering the specific needs and circumstances of the individual. Due to the high potency and risk associated with fentanyl and xylazine, professional medical and psychological support is crucial throughout the recovery process.
Get Treatment for Fentanyl and Xylazine Addiction at California Detox
Xylazine and fentanyl addiction requires prompt treatment to mitigate the risk of overdose and prevent the worsening of opioid use disorder. We can help you with this at California Detox.
If you begin your recovery from opioid addiction with supervised medical detoxification at our rehab center in Laguna Beach, CA, the process becomes much more manageable. After a week or so, you will no longer be physically dependent on opioids. Although detox is a crucial phase of recovery, you will need ongoing treatment to address the psychological component of fentanyl and xylazine addiction.
All treatment programs at California Detox deliver individualized treatments that include:
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
- Group therapy
- Individual counseling
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapy
- Aftercare and support
Reach out for help with fentanyl and xylazine addiction before it’s too late by calling 949.694.8305.