Xylazine Addiction: Effects, Signs, & Treatment

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Xylazine, a substance intended for veterinary use, is increasingly appearing as an adulterant in illicit drug combinations, contributing to soaring rates of overdose deaths in the United States. While often found mixed with fentanyl, xylazine is increasingly being detected in drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth. Read on to learn more about the dangers of xylazine addiction and discover how to connect with compassionate care.

What Is Xylazine?

FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approves xylazine solely for veterinary applications. Xylazine is a non-narcotic sedative and analgesic which is not categorized as a controlled substance in the United States.

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Xylazine first appeared as a contaminant in heroin supplies in the early 2000s. Although it’s not an opioid, xylazine triggers similar effects, such as sedation, decreased heart rate, and constricted pupils. Beyond this, xylazine use is associated with severe skin ulcers and infections due to its impact on soft tissue in the body.

Mixing opioids with sedatives like xylazine increases the risk of a fatal overdose. Oftentimes, people consuming drugs are unaware of the presence of xylazine. 

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Is Xylazine Addictive?

Currently, no specific substance use disorder is associated with xylazine. That said, both unintentional and intentional use of xylazine can prompt the development of physical dependence, with individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability

While definitive clinical guidelines for treating xylazine withdrawal are not established, utilizing alpha-2 agonists like clonidine can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms associated with xylazine.

Xylazine Addiction Effects

Xylazine effects can be wide-ranging, due to its sedative and muscle relaxant properties. Physical dependence on xylazine can lead to severe health complications, including:

  • Skin and soft tissue damage: One of the most visible effects of xylazine use is the development of severe skin ulcers and infections, often resulting from compromised blood flow to tissues.
  • Respiratory depression: Like opioids, xylazine can significantly reduce breathing rate, increasing the risk of fatal respiratory depression, especially when combined with other CNS depressants.
  • Cardiovascular issues: Xylazine can cause alterations in heart rate and blood pressure, ranging from bradycardia (slow heart rate) to hypertension (high blood pressure), both of which can strain the cardiovascular system.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Those dependent on xylazine may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Symptoms can include anxiety, hypertension, increased heart rate, sweating, restlessness, and irritability.

Xylazine Wounds

Xylazine usage has been linked to the development of skin wounds, affecting both individuals who inject substances and those who do not. The reasons for these skin lesions appearing remain unclear.

The first indicators of xylazine-related wounds are small bumps, often with a white or purple center filled with dark red fluid. While they might initially seem minor, without proper care, they can escalate into more severe infections. Prompt attention to these wounds will help prevent exacerbation or bacterial infection. Effective wound care involves the following key practices:

  • Keeping the wound covered and cleaning it gently with soap and sterile water, avoiding harsh substances like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide that could dry it out.
  • Applying treatments like antibiotic ointment, Vaseline, or medical-grade honey.
  • Using an absorbent pad and a non-adherent dressing to cover the wound, ensuring that the bandage is neither too tight nor too loose, and changing it daily when possible.
  • Monitoring for signs of bacterial infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, increased pain, pus or unusual fluid discharge, a foul odor, warmth at the wound site, a change in color of the wound, fatigue, or fever. If any of these symptoms present, seek medical care immediately.

Xylazine Addiction Signs

Recognizing the signs of xylazine addiction can help inform timely intervention and guide appropriate treatment. While xylazine is not an opioid, its misuse alongside opioid substances can complicate the addiction profile. Possible signs of xylazine addiction include:

  • Compulsive use: An inability to control the use of xylazine, including using more than intended or using the drug in dangerous situations.
  • Physical dependence: Developing a tolerance to xylazine, requiring larger doses to achieve the same effects, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug.
  • Continued use despite adverse outcomes: Persisting in using xylazine despite experiencing adverse health effects like skin wounds and infections.
  • Social and behavioral changes: Withdrawing from social interactions, neglecting responsibilities, or engaging in secretive behaviors related to drug use.
  • Risk-taking behaviors: Engaging in risky activities or unsafe practices while using the drug.
  • Neglecting appearance: A noticeable decline in personal hygiene or care for appearance manifesting, which may indicate a focus on substance use over self-care.

Recognizing these signs in yourself or others can prompt the search for help and support from healthcare professionals experienced in addiction treatment – xylazine addiction is highly treatable.

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Get Treatment for Xylazine Addiction at California Detox

The abuse of xylazine is a growing problem in the United States, potentially triggering severe and life-threatening outcomes.

The safest approach to treating xylazine drug addiction begins with supervised medical detoxification. You can access continuous emotional and clinical care at our rehab in Laguna Beach, CA. The treatment team may also administer medications to streamline the xylazine withdrawal process.

After detoxing, you can move into ongoing inpatient treatment. Treatment plans are personalized to reflect the unique aspect of xylazine addiction. Therapies may include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Talk therapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic treatments
  • Aftercare planning

Call 949.694.8305 for on-the-spot assistance addressing xylazine addiction.


Xylazine wounds are traumatic injuries associated with the use of xylazine, a veterinary sedative which has been increasingly detected in illicit drug supplies. These wounds can occur due to the drug’s tendency to reduce blood flow and oxygen to tissues, leading to severe skin and soft tissue infections, necrosis, and ulcers.
Xylazine itself is not classified as an opioid and does not act directly on the brain’s opioid receptors. That said, the effects triggered by the drug often encourage repeated use. Additionally, when xylazine is mixed with opioids like heroin or fentanyl, it may enhance the overall addictive potential of the drug cocktail, complicating addiction treatment and recovery efforts.


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