What Is Xylazine and Is It Addictive?
Xylazine is a non-opioid tranquilizer used by veterinarians to calm or sedate animals. While it’s only FDA-approved for use as a veterinary medicine, xylazine has been found in a rising number of people tested for drug use. Xylazine isn’t considered addictive when taken alone, but its use can have adverse effects. When combined with opioids and illicit drugs such as fentanyl, xylazine increases the risk of addiction and fatal overdose.
You or a loved one don’t have to struggle with substance use disorder. Many drug treatment options are available to get you on the road to recovery. Zinnia Health has rehab centers throughout the US, so you’re sure to find one near you. If you have questions about our therapy programs or are ready to get started, call us at (855) 430-9439.
What Is Xylazine?
Xylazine (xylazine hydrochloride) is a strong synthetic veterinary tranquilizer. It’s primarily used as a sedative (induces conscious sleep-like state), anesthetic (causes unconsciousness), analgesic (provides pain relief), and muscle relaxant (helps muscle tightness and spasms) for animals.
Xylazine has several trade names, including:
Xylazine is also known by the following street names:
- Tranq Dope (xylazine and heroin or fentanyl)
- Zombie Drug
This non-opioid drug is commonly given to large animals such as dogs, horses, deer, and cattle who are injured, scared, or aggressive. Xylazine helps to calm them down so veterinarians and other animal care professionals can conduct examinations or perform medical procedures.
Although it is frequently mixed with illegal drugs, xylazine isn’t safe for human consumption.
History of Xylazine
In 1962, Bayer Pharmaceuticals first produced xylazine in the US, and in 1972 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an animal medication. Veterinarians mainly use xylazine as a sedative, muscle relaxant, and pain reliever.
Although Bayer conducted studies on using xylazine in humans, they found it caused adverse effects. As a result, they stopped clinical trials and reported that xylazine isn’t safe enough to consider for use for use by humans, including as a sleep medicine, pain reliever, or anesthetic.
Recently, there has been a rise in the use of xylazine. In 2022, the FDA warned about the risk of exposure to xylazine in heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and other dangerous illegal drugs. In 2023, the FDA took action to restrict xylazine from being imported into the US for unlawful use. Xylazine is frequently called a “zombie drug” because of the unsightly wounds and tissue damage it can cause.
Prevalence of Xylazine
Xylazine combined with opioids has been commonplace in Puerto Rico for quite some time. In the US, xylazine users began showing up on the streets of Philadelphia.
Since then, the state of New York and other areas have seen a rise in reported xylazine drug use. This includes a 20-fold increase in xylazine-related drug overdose deaths between 2015 and 2020 in major regions of the US.
Autopsy reports found the highest prevalence of xylazine-related deaths in the following states:
- Philadelphia (25.8%)
- Maryland (19.3%)
- Connecticut (10.2%)
More than 98% of xylazine drug overdose deaths involve illegally produced fentanyl. Even more alarming is that 91% of heroin or fentanyl samples contained xylazine.
Xylazine has entered the illicit drug supply as a common “filler” substance added to dangerous drugs. Using street drugs puts you at significant risk of overdose and death because you can’t be sure what ingredients were used to make them.
Types of Drugs Often Combined With Xylazine
Drug testing laboratories are increasingly reporting traces of xylazine. While illegal drug mixtures seem popular, xylazine is also found combined with counterfeit prescription medications.
Illicit Street Drugs
- Opioids (Norco, Percocet, Vicodin)
- Sedatives (Xanax)
- Stimulants (Adderall)
Counterfeit pills are often made to look exactly like prescribed pills, so you can’t trust any substances bought or used on the street. You must take medications prescribed by a medical professional and used as intended.
How Does Xylazine Work?
Xylazine is a veterinary medicine that belongs to the class of drugs known as alpha-2 adrenergic agonists (stimulators of the adrenal gland). According to a report published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), these drugs mimic the effects of adrenaline-like hormones by binding to alpha-2 adrenergic receptors (α2-adrenoceptors) found throughout the body.
The following alpha-2 adrenergic agonist drugs have been FDA-approved for use in humans and produce similar effects:
- Dexmedetomidine: Sedative used in intensive care and for surgeries and various procedures
- Clonidine: Treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hypertension (high blood pressure), and severe pain in cancer patients
Xylazine specifically binds receptors in the central nervous system (CNS), which causes a decrease in the release of norepinephrine (a stress hormone) and dopamine (a “feel good” hormone). The body’s response leads to sedation, pain relief, and muscle relaxation.
What Is the Duration of Xylazine?
The time it takes for xylazine to work depends on how a person has consumed it. Xylazine is available in the animal medicine industry as a liquid solution for injections. On the streets, the liquid is often dried or salted to change to white or brown powder, which is sometimes mixed with other substances and made into pills.
Xylazine is a fast-acting drug that can take effect in minutes. The sedating, pain-relieving, and muscle-relaxing effects can last eight or more hours. This may vary from person to person based on the amount taken, the frequency of consumption, whether they mixed it with other drugs, the individual’s tolerance, along with other risk factors.
Is Xylazine Illegal or Approved for Human Use?
If you’ve ever used or considered using xylazine, it’s important to understand that this drug has more potent effects on humans than animals. The potential of xylazine to cause harm to humans is why it’s not approved for human use in most countries. In the US, xylazine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for use in animals, not humans.
Xylazine doesn’t fall under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), though Congress has been discussing the issue. Many leaders are taking action to push state-level laws that make it illegal to possess and use, as Florida has already done.
Xylazine has more potent effects on humans than animals, and its use can lead to serious side effects such as respiratory depression, low blood pressure, and even coma. Therefore, it’s crucial only to use medications specifically approved for human use and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Have you been using xylazine even though it’s approved for human use? Are you just now discovering the dangers of taking this and other illegal drugs? Rest assured that help is available. You can reach out to Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 any day or time. Our addiction team is standing by 24/7 to answer your questions or refer you to the nearest rehab center for treatment.
What Are the Adverse Effects of Xylazine Use?
Xylazine is safe for animal use, but its actions are stronger on humans. While high doses of this drug can be dangerous, even small amounts of xylazine can lead to adverse effects. That’s because alpha-2 adrenergic agonists are CNS depressants. As with most drug misuse and abuse, your body can be affected mentally and physically.
Negative effects of xylazine use include:
- Memory loss
- Slow breathing
- Decreased heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Large skin sores prone to infection
- Soft tissue damage and amputations
Xylazine also has adverse effects when taken at very high doses
- Loss of feeling
- Enhancement of other drugs
The risk of xylazine-related overdose increases substantially when combined with other drugs and alcohol. Xylazine is a popular additive that may prolong the “high” feeling sought from fentanyl, which doesn’t last as long as other opioids.
However, many people take illegal drugs, not knowing it also contains xylazine. Taking opioids and other drugs that depress the CNS might cause you to become nonconscious and stop breathing, which could be fatal.
Does Xylazine Have Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms happen when you stop taking certain drugs. As the drugs get eliminated from your system, your body attempts to adjust to not having those drugs in your system. In response, you could experience various side effects.
After stopping xylazine, you may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
If you consumed xylazine unknowingly or knowingly containing opioids, your symptoms would be more severe. There’s no antidote to reverse the effects of xylazine withdrawal. When other drugs are suspected, treatment typically involves withdrawal medications such as naloxone.
Is Xylazine Addictive?
Unlike opioids, alcohol, and other substances, xylazine isn’t considered addictive. At the same time, the misuse or abuse of any substance can lead to dependence. According to MedlinePlus, substance use disorder (SUD) can be caused by various factors you may or may not have control over.
Some common reasons for xylazine addiction may include the following:
- Specific drug action
- Genetic makeup
- Low self-esteem
- Peer pressure
- Emotional distress
- Environmental stress
- Attention deficit disorder (ADHD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chaotic lifestyle
Quitting xylazine and going through withdrawal symptoms can lead to dependence. In addition, some people develop drug tolerance, requiring a larger dose to get the desired effect. That’s why seeking professional help is vital to detox safely and maintain sobriety.
Signs You Have a Xylazine Addiction
You or someone you know may have developed a dependence on xylazine or a combination of drugs without you or anyone else realizing it. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) noted that many people hide their addiction.
Consider the following physical, behavioral, and social changes that often indicate drug addiction:
- Abnormal eyes
- Unkempt appearance and smells
- Slurred speech or impaired coordination
- Problems at work or school
- Acting secretive or suspicious
- Changes in appetite or sleep
- Unusual weight loss or gain
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or paranoia
- Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
- Legal or financial problems
When abusing or misusing xylazine and other drugs, you may continue to use them despite the issues it causes. Substance use disorder can seem like a never-ending cycle, but there are many treatment options no matter what you face.
Treatment Options for Drug Addiction
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. The most effective treatment approach for you will be different from other people. In addition, you may benefit from one or more types of treatments.
The most common approaches include:
- Medical Detoxification: Detox involves using medications, therapy, and counseling to help you manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Inpatient Rehabilitation: Residential programs provide a structured and supportive environment while living in a rehab facility where you receive intensive therapy.
- Outpatient Treatment: Outpatient programs allow you to attend therapy sessions regularly while living at home.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy helps you identify and change unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns that contribute to your drug addiction.
- Support Groups: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and similar programs provide a community to share experiences, receive support, and learn from others with similar challenges.
It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or addiction specialist. They can help you determine the best course of action in your circumstances.
Take the Next Step to Recovery
Xylazine is a strong sedative, pain reliever, and muscle relaxant only approved for use on animals. It’s been deemed unsafe for humans, yet people often sell it illegally. Often called a zombie drug because it destroys skin, xylazine also affects your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Alone, xylazine may not be addictive; however, it’s often mixed with opioids and other dangerous drugs. If you’re a drug user, you could be putting yourself at risk of overdose and death, so it’s important to start your recovery immediately by seeking expert support and addiction treatment.
Zinnia Health is a great place to consider if you or someone close to you struggles with drug or alcohol dependence. We’ll guide you through the treatment process and develop a plan tailored to your needs. Take the necessary step to get your life back on track today. Simply contact us online or by phone at (855) 430-9439.