There is a new prescription drug showing up in the rising drug overdoses taking place throughout the country. The drug, called Xylazine, is a dangerous tranquilizer often used by veterinarians and veterinarian clinics on animals. Over the last few months, in different areas around America, the drug is showing up more and more in cases of both fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses. Most often, and in similar ways to the powerful and dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl, xylazine is being used in counterfeit prescription pills being sold on the street.
Xylazine is a drug most often used in veterinary medicine as a sedative. It is a drug that has analgesic and muscle relaxant properties. Used for many different animals, the drug is also used in a variety of settings to make animals feel calm, such as handling the animals, performing diagnostic testing on the animals, in surgical procedures, and can also act as a local anesthetic. Xylazine is considered an animal tranquilizer.
Throughout many different areas, cities, states, and regions across the U.S., xylazine is showing up as a present substance in drug overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal. It is also considered the cause of many skin infections for individuals using drugs that contain xylazine. Time Magazine recently published a study based on years of scientific research that found that the drug is being cited more and more in drug clusters in specific areas within the United States, and wherever more of the drug is shipped, both legally and illegally, the more it is showing up in drug overdoses.
The use of Xylazine in counterfeit prescription drugs is mimicking and mirroring the same issues taking place with fentanyl, a powerful and dangerous synthetic opioid. The major culprit in the rising drug overdose epidemic in America, fentanyl is being used to cut heroin, or be used to create counterfeit prescription pills that are sold on the street. While these prescription pills can be opioids like OxyContin, Percocet, or hydrocodone, they can also be made into non-opioid prescription pills like Xanax, Adderall, Klonopin, or Valium.
The rise in the use of Xylazine and the dangers that it causes, when examining the same rise in the use of fentanyl over the last decade, draw great concern to the future of America’s overdose crisis. The overdose epidemic is a public health threat, and the numbers of both fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses are rising each year. The use of synthetic compounds such as fentanyl and xylazine demonstrate that it is not the use of one specific synthetic drug that is to blame, but rather that the use of synthetic drugs in different forms keeps changing, and negatively impacting the drug supply throughout America.
However, unlike fentanyl which can sometimes be found as a standalone substance in an overdose but can also be found to be used with other substances, xylazine is almost never found to have been used by an individual as a standalone substance. Rather, it is most often mixed with other drugs or used in other drug formulations, and then sold on the street as a powder or pressed into a counterfeit prescription pill. This makes it even more concerning and more dangerous, as a user of the drug may never know that the substance they are using contains xylazine.
As a tranquilizer, the use of xylazine carries with it substantial risk. At high doses, it can render the user unconscious. It can cause blackouts. The drug can cause memory loss or amnesia. It can create mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, including feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts. Xylazine can also create liver dysfunction or liver failure from tissue damage.
While not a new substance, xylazine is a new drug entering the scene to watch for related to addiction or drug overdoses. Just as fentanyl has changed the game, xylazine and other synthetic drugs that are sure to continue to enter the drug using scene will no doubt continue to up the dangers of using drugs and causing the rising tide of American overdoses to continue. For individuals using drugs, seeking out help through detox, treatment, and recovery support is key to overcoming addiction and finding freedom in recovery.
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