Substance Use

What Are Zombie Drugs?

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What Are Zombie Drugs?

When you hear someone talk about “zombie drugs,” they’re usually talking about opioids like fentanyl enhanced with a drug called xylazine (“tranq”). However, there are other drugs often called zombie drugs, including α-PVP (“Flakka”) and desomorphine (“krocodil”).

Are you struggling with drug addiction? At Zinnia Health, we understand how difficult it can be to get on the road to recovery. That’s why we offer a range of outpatient care, inpatient treatment, and other rehab programs. To get started, reach out to us online or at (855) 430-9439.

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What Is the Zombie Drug?

There has been an alarming rise in the use of substances known as “zombie drugs.” Zombie drugs are so-called because of the effects they may have when taken.

Some zombie drugs are so sedating or psychoactive that they make you act like a zombie. Others damage your skin, causing you to look like a zombie.

What Are the Most Common Zombie Drugs?

There are three known types of drugs commonly called zombie drugs. All of these drugs are illegal for human use, while one is FDA-approved for use on animals.


Xylazine is a horse tranquilizer approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for use in veterinary medicine. This sedative is commonly used on animals because it acts as a sedative (sleep-inducer), analgesic (painkiller), and muscle relaxer.

In 1962, Bayer Pharmaceutics first produced xylazine as a potential anesthetic, analgesic, and sleep aid for humans, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). After clinical trials, it was found that xylazine severely lowers blood pressure (hypotension) and depresses the central nervous system (CNS).

Trade Names for Xylazine 

  • Rompun®
  • AnaSed®

Street Names for Xylazine 


Alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (α-PVP) is a synthetic cathinone stimulant commonly known as flakka. The DEA considers flakka a designer drug, also called bath salts. A 2020 report published by the National Library of Medicine warned of this dangerous drug being abused.

α-PVP comes in a crystal-like form in either pink or white. People consume it in several ways, including eating, snorting, injecting, or smoking.

Street Names for α-PVP 

  • Flakka
  • Gravel


Desomorphine is a semi-synthetic drug similar to opiates first produced in the U.S. in the 1930s. It’s no longer approved for any medical use and remains a controlled substance. According to the DEA, desomorphine is fast-acting with only short-term effects, but it’s ten times stronger than morphine. The first noted cases of international desomorphine drug abuse occurred in 2002.

The most noticeable symptom of desomorphine is its effect on the skin. Long-term use causes the skin to turn green and scaly, like the rugged skin of a crocodile. In extreme cases, this drug can cause the skin to die around the injection site, and infection can travel to other parts of the body.

This is why it’s often called a zombie drug. It’s less expensive than heroin, and it was on the rise in Russia, but it hasn’t reached the mainstream in the U.S. However, a few cases of desomorphine use have surfaced in recent years, including one reported by the National Library of Medicine.

Street Names for Desomorphine 

  • Krokodil
  • Crocodil

Are you or a loved one at risk because you use zombie drugs? Are you not sure where to turn to get your life back? We can help. Zinnia Health has a wide range of treatment options that can be tailored to your individual needs. For more information, call (855) 430-9439 to speak to one of our addiction specialists. 

How Do Zombie Drugs Affect the Body?

Zombie drugs, like most illicit drugs, cause more harm than good. While many people take them for various short-term benefits, they may not realize the long-term adverse side effects.

In some cases, the zombie drugs can lead to:

  • Serious injuries
  • Limb amputation
  • Chronic health issues
  • Overdose
  • Death

Symptoms of Xylazine Abuse

Xylazine depresses the CNS, so consuming this drug can cause the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Amnesia
  • Slow breathing
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Blurred vision
  • Disorientation
  • Staggering
  • Miosis (small pupils)
  • Skin lesions (when combined with fentanyl)
  • Coma
  • Overdose 
  • Death

Symptoms of α-PVP Abuse

α-PVP is a psychotic drug with symptoms that are characteristic of drugs classified as cathinones:

  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Mania
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Violence
  • Severe poisoning
  • Seizures
  • Death

Symptoms of Desomorphine Abuse

  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Green, scaly skin
  • Severe skin damage at injection sites (necrosis)
  • Thrombosis (blood clots)
  • Gangrene (from loss of blood supply)
  • Limb amputation
  • Death

Why Are Zombie Drugs So Dangerous?

Zombie drugs, like most illicit drugs, are potentially harmful for several reasons. Depending on the drug, it can lead to substance use disorder. In addition, many drugs found on the streets are mixed with various substances.

So, for example, while you may think you’re only getting xylazine, you could actually be taking fentanyl as well. Fentanyl alone is one of the most dangerous drugs; fentanyl mixed with xylazine is even more deadly.

Xylazine has a long list of symptoms that can increase your risk of the harmful effects of drug use. According to the DEA’s report on The Growing Threat of Xylazine and its Mixture with Illicit Drugs, forensic laboratories have seen increases in xylazine throughout the U.S. between 2020 and 2021 — up to 193% in southern states.

The DEA also reported that xylazine overdose deaths increased from 100% in the Northeast to as much as 1,127% in the South. Xylazine combined with opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol increases the risk of overdose deaths.

When you take α-PVP, it often causes paranoia and hallucinations. The problem with this zombie drug is that it may cause you to become extremely violent and aggressive, injuring others or yourself. In addition, there have been numerous reports of overdoses and deaths from using this drug.

Desomorphine primarily causes problems with the skin, which is why it’s frequently called Krokodil on the streets. Although initially seen as a potential alternative to morphine, such as for cancer patients, it was found to be habit-forming.

Get On the Road To Recovery Today

Zombie drugs aren’t as well known as many other street drugs like heroin and cocaine. However, when you use any type of illegal drug, you put yourself at great risk of injury, overdose, and death. Whether you take xylazine, α-PVP, desomorphine, or any other type of drug, it’s vital to seek addiction treatment.

Zinnia Health offers treatment options for you or a loved one at rehab center locations throughout the U.S. We’re available 24/7, so don’t hesitate to call (855) 430-9439 and speak with one of our caring and compassionate staff members.

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