Fentanyl and Xylazine

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The veterinary sedative Xylazine, not sanctioned for human consumption, is increasingly being implicated in overdose fatalities across the United States. Research shows that people frequently mix xylazine with other substances, especially illegal fentanyl. NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that the drug is known to cause extreme skin and soft tissue damage, potentially leading to amputations. Read on to learn more about xylazine vs fentanyl.

Fentanyl Mixed with Xylazine

DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration) has released a Public Safety Alert concerning a significant rise in the distribution of fentanyl-laced with xylazine. Known informally as tranq, xylazine is a potent sedative approved only for animal use by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration. DEA has discovered xylazine mixed with fentanyl in 48 U.S. states, with laboratory analysis revealing that xylazine was present in about 23% of powdered fentanyl and 7% of fentanyl-laced pills seized in the United States in 2022.

As a non-opioid sedative, xylazine can induce symptoms such as sleepiness and memory loss, and can critically decrease respiratory and cardiac functions. Although not a controlled substance, its unauthorized use poses significant risks. When combined with fentanyl and other opioids, xylazine may enhance and prolong the intoxicating effects. Regrettably, xylazine’s impacts are not counteracted by naloxone, the medication typically used to reverse opioid overdoses, which increases the chance of a lethal overdose. Xylazine use can also lead to dependence, withdrawal, serious skin damage, and tissue death, potentially requiring limb amputation.

A man thinks seriously about Fentanyl mixed with xylazine

What is Xylazine

Xylazine is a drug meant for calming and relieving pain in animals, and it’s not safe or approved for people to use because it can greatly slow down the body’s central nervous system. This drug, which was created in 1962, works similarly to some blood pressure medications and triggers effects like sleepiness and muscle relaxation.

Recently, xylazine has shown up more often in illegal drugs, especially when mixed with very strong painkillers like fentanyl. Street names for xylazine include tranq or tranq dope, especially when it’s added to heroin or fentanyl.

Xylazine is usually a liquid that’s given by injection to animals, and it comes in different strengths. People who sell drugs illegally might turn it into a powder or add it to pills, and it can look white or brown. It’s challenging to determine whether a substance contains xylazine just by looking at it.

People might take xylazine by injecting it, sniffing it, or swallowing it, and it starts to work quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes. The effects can last for about 8 hours, but this can vary substantially depending on how much is taken, how it’s taken, and if it’s used with other drugs. 

Where Does Xylazine Come From

Xylazine primarily originates from China, where it is produced and then distributed globally. The drug often enters the market through online platforms, especially those on the dark web, which is a part of the internet not indexed by standard search engines and accessible only with special software. The dark web is known for its anonymity, which makes it a common channel for the illicit drug trade.

The ease of access to the dark web and the discreet shipping methods employed allow xylazine to be traded across borders with relative ease. Once acquired, the substance can be processed and sold by illicit drug manufacturers and dealers, who may mix it with other drugs like fentanyl to alter or intensify the effects.

Because xylazine is not a controlled substance in many places, it comes under less scrutiny than regulated substances. That said, this does not diminish the risks associated with its unauthorized use, especially given its potent effects and potential for harm when used in humans.

Xylazine Effect

Xylazine, when used outside of its intended veterinary application, can have serious effects on humans. Xylazine effects include:

  • Sedation: It can cause deep sedation, making a person feel extremely sleepy and potentially leading to unconsciousness.
  • Respiratory depression: Xylazine slows down breathing, which can be dangerous and lead to respiratory failure, especially if mixed with other depressants like opioids.
  • Cardiovascular effects: The drug can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, sometimes to dangerously low levels, posing serious risks to heart health.
  • Muscle relaxation: As a muscle relaxant, xylazine can cause a significant decrease in muscle tone and control.
  • Analgesia: Although it acts as a pain reliever for animals, in humans, this effect can mask injuries or other medical conditions, leading to delayed treatment.
  • Wound formation: Chronic use can lead to severe skin ulcers and wounds, which are prone to infection and can result in serious long-term damage.
  • Amnesia: It may cause memory loss, affecting a person’s ability to remember events while under its influence.
  • Physical dependence and withdrawal: With repeated use, individuals can develop a dependence on xylazine, and abrupt discontinuation may lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
  • Risk of overdose: Because its sedative effects are not reversed by naloxone, the risk of overdose and death increases when xylazine is used, especially in combination with opioids.
  • Necrosis: In severe cases, xylazine use can lead to necrotic tissue, which may require medical intervention such as amputation if the affected area is beyond recovery.

Understanding these effects can help anyone who encounters xylazine in the illicit drug supply. More education and heightened awareness can aid in combating the risks associated with this potent and dangerous substance.

Xylazine Overdose

Overdoses that involve fentanyl and xylazine can look a lot like opioid-only overdoses. Xylazine can make the effects of other depressants, like fentanyl and heroin, stronger.

Xylazine by itself doesn’t usually cause the extreme breathing problems seen with opioid overdoses, but it can make someone so deeply unconscious that they could suffocate because their airway gets blocked.

If there’s a chance an overdose involves both xylazine and fentanyl, naloxone should still be used to treat any breathing problems. That said, naloxone will not counteract the effects of xylazine, so someone might still seem very sedated even after naloxone is administered. This should not be mistaken for naloxone not working against certain types of fentanyl or other opioids.

Even if a person starts breathing normally after naloxone, they may still be under the influence of xylazine, and giving more naloxone might not help. Right now, there is no antidote for xylazine that’s safe for humans, so the best approach is to provide supportive care like rescue breathing in the event of a xylazine fentanyl overdose. Also, keep an eye on the person’s blood pressure, as it might be unstable and require medical attention.

an image of people who with arms around each other representing Xylazine fentanyl

Get Treatment for Xylazine Abuse at Ohio Recovery Centers

If you require treatment for the abuse of xylazine or fentanyl, reach out to Ohio Recovery Centers. We treat all types of addictions and mental health conditions in an outpatient setting at our facility in Cincinnati, OH. This enables you to fulfill your everyday obligations without compromising the quality of care that you receive.

At Ohio Recovery Centers, our treatment team utilizes a whole-body approach to recovery. You can expect to access an individualized blend of therapies, such as medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, counseling, family therapy, and holistic treatments. All of our treatment programs also feature robust aftercare due to the relapsing nature of addictions. When you are ready to address fentanyl addiction or xylazine abuse before it’s too late, call 877-679-2132 for immediate assistance

Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn