Understanding Xylazine Abuse

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Xylazine, a tranquilizer meant for animals and not meant for people, has been connected to more overdose deaths as the drug addiction and overdose problem continues to grow across the United States. Research indicates that people who come into contact with xylazine often use it with other drugs, sometimes without even realizing it, especially with illegal fentanyl. Read on to learn more about xylazine drug addiction and discover how to connect with evidence-based treatment near you.

What Is Xylazine?

Xylazine is a sedative, painkiller, and muscle relaxant approved only for veterinary use by the FDA. It’s not considered a controlled substance under U.S. law. Initially, it started showing up as a contaminant in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s, subsequently becoming a drug of abuse there.

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For legitimate veterinary purposes, xylazine is sold in liquid form through pharmaceutical distributors and vet-specific websites. That said, it’s also available on other websites, often without any connection to veterinary use. You can even buy a kilogram of xylazine powder online from Chinese suppliers for as little as $20.

Some illicit drug dealers use xylazine drug to mix with fentanyl or heroin because it enhances the effects and allows them to make more money. Some people knowingly seek out these mixtures, as xylazine has similar effects to opioids but lasts longer. Many people don’t realize it’s in their drugs, though, and some try to avoid it because they believe it reduces the euphoria or fear its added effects.

Any form of xylazine abuse poses significant dangers and potentially life-threatening risks.

Beyond the threat of overdose and addiction, the misuse of xylazine can lead to the development of severe lesions and abscesses. There has been a substantial rise in emergency department visits linked to skin injuries and soft tissue injuries between 2019 and 2021 as a result of xylazine misuse.

Where Does Xylazine Come From?

Similar to fentanyl, xylazine initially showed up as an unapproved ingredient in illegal drugs in the Northeast, particularly in Philadelphia. It then quickly spread to other regions in the West and South.

Currently, the main sources of xylazine are believed to be China, and possibly Mexico, India, and Russia. It’s also possible that some domestic manufacturers selling to veterinarians might contribute to the supply. Is xylazine addictive, then?

image representing xylazine addiction

Xylazine Addiction

Despite being a non-opioid substance, xylazine operates in a way that resembles heroin and other CNS depressants. It accomplishes this by blocking pain signals and triggering increased dopamine production in the brain, resulting in a lasting sense of euphoria when used recreationally.

One of the most concerning aspects of xylazine use is that it is often consumed unknowingly by individuals. Beyond this, traffickers are increasingly incorporating xylazine into various substances, such as heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, MDMA, and counterfeit prescription pills.

What sets xylazine apart is its potential for creating a stronger addiction than opioids, including the potent fentanyl. The extended duration of its effects can lead to a heightened risk of addiction and dependence, complicating the path to recovery.

Dependence on xylazine can lead to a range of adverse outcomes, including withdrawal symptoms, neglect of responsibilities, and serious health issues. Seek professional help and support if you are struggling with xylazine dependence and addiction.

Addiction to Xylazine Treatment

Due to the number of xylazine deaths occurring in the United States, it is worth developing an awareness of how to treat overdose. If you suspect that someone has overdosed on xylazine, administer naloxone and place them in the recovery position. This position helps maintain a clear airway, prevents aspiration, and ensures proper breathing. To do this:

  • Kneel next to the person.
  • Extend their arm that’s closest to you so that it extends above their head.
  • Take their other arm and extend it across their body. You should make sure that their hand rests on the cheek nearest you.
  • Bend their knee so that their foot flat is on the ground – use the knee that’s farthest from you.
  • Roll the person onto their side.
  • Tilt their head so that the airway opens then check for obstructions.
  • Ensure that the hip and knee of their top leg are bent.
  • Monitor the person until emergency responders arrive, performing CPR as needed, and be prepared for cardiopulmonary resuscitation if necessary.

Management of xylazine intoxication:

There is no FDA-approved antidote for xylazine overdose, meaning that xylazine and Narcan is not an effective combination. Treatment for xylazine addicts involves supportive care, including oxygen, intravenous fluids, and vasopressors for unstable blood pressure. 

Treating xylazine-induced skin lesions involves daily wound cleansing, checking for secondary infections, applying nonadherent gauze like Xeroform, and topical ointments. Debridement may be necessary in severe cases, and limb amputation is a last resort. Antibiotics should cover methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and group A streptococci.

Those who are dependent on xylazine may experience withdrawal symptoms, but there’s limited research on managing them. One approach involves medications like clonidine, dexmedetomidine, tizanidine, or guanfacine for replacement therapy, along with pain management using short-acting opioids, gabapentin, or ketamine. Insomnia and anxiety can be addressed with appropriate medications. Co-occurring opioid withdrawal symptoms should also be addressed, but standard opioid-assisted therapies may not be effective for xylazine withdrawal.

luxury bedroom at california detox representing xylazine treatment

Get Treatment for Xylazine Addiction at California Detox

If you have been abusing addictive drugs like xylazine, we can help you initiate a full recovery at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Begin with supervised detox at our beachside facility to ensure that the withdrawal process is as safe and comfortable as possible. After a week or so, you can move into ongoing inpatient treatment to address the psychological aspect of addiction.

We appreciate that all addictions are different, so we deliver targeted treatments that may include:

When you are committed to tackling xylazine addiction head-on, call 949.694.8305.


Common signs of xylazine abuse include drowsiness, dizziness, slowed heart rate, and respiratory depression.


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