xylazine the zombie drug, xylazine drug overdose and addiction treatment

The zombie drug, also known as “tranq,” is a sedative veterinary drug used on large animals. In recent years, this substance has emerged as an adulterant in the illicit drug supply, along with its association with increasing overdose deaths.

What is the “Zombie Drug”?

Xylazine, aka the “zombie drug,” is a non-opioid sedative, analgesic, and muscle relaxant approved for veterinary use in the United States. While this tranquilizer is not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, it has not been approved for human use. Xylazine has also been referred to as “tranq” or “tranq dope” as it is a veterinary tranquilizer. The zombie drug has been associated with an increasing number of illicit drug mixtures and overdose deaths nationwide. The presence of xylazine has been found in combination with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and other illegal mixtures of drugs.

fentanyl and xylazine drug mixture

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. When fentanyl is mixed with xylazine, its opioid-like effects are heightened, along with the risk of overdose and death. On its own, xylazine is not safe for human consumption, making it that much more dangerous when mixed with the deadly fentanyl drug. Human consumption of xylazine can cause severe sedation, respiratory depression, bradycardia, hypotension, and temporary amnesia, earning it its name as the “zombie drug.”

The Effects of Xylazine “The Zombie Drug”

Xylazine, the animal tranquilizer and sedative, can have a range of harmful effects on the body and brain through its action as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. With the growing presence of xylazine as an adulterant in the illicit drug market, there is an increase in the risk of overdose and death from acute poisoning from toxic drug mixtures.

The mixture of fentanyl and xylazine has contributed to the opioid crisis in the U.S., resulting in increasing overdoses and overdose deaths. The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) initiated a National Response Plan correspondingly in 2023 to address the deadly combination of xylazine mixed with fentanyl.

The Neurological Impact of Xylazine

Xylazine’s effects on the brain induce sedation, analgesia, and respiratory depression and inhibit the sympathetic nervous system. As a tranquilizer, xylazine reduces the release of norepinephrine in the brain to produce a state of calm or sleep. Norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in attention, cognitive function, and alertness. Like opioids and fentanyl, the zombie drug’s analgesic effects alter the way the brain perceives pain, providing relief for inflammation and pain. Users taking xylazine may be less responsive to painful stimuli, increasing the risk of potential accidents or injuries.

High doses of xylazine, especially when mixed with fentanyl, can depress respiratory control centers in the brain, leading to respiratory depression. Similar to that of opioid-induced respiratory depression, this can cause slow or shallow breathing. Mixing xylazine with other depressants like opioids heightens the risks of respiratory depression and bradycardia, which are the leading causes of opioid overdose deaths. Xylazine inhibits the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight responses. This effect can cause reduced aggression and stress responses, which is why it is used in veterinary medicine for tranquilizing.

man experiencing xylazine drug withdrawal symptoms

Xylazine Effects on the Body

Xylazine’s impact on the body can cause hypotension, bradycardia, hyperglycemia, muscle relaxation, and wound necrosis. The zombie drug’s most common side effects and health risks for humans include:

  • Sedation
  • Euphoria
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dangerously low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Wounds that can become infected
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Overdose
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Hypotension, severely low blood pressure, from xylazine toxicity is caused by the dilation of blood vessels. The lack of norepinephrine from xylazine leads to sympatholytic effects of hypotension, bradycardia, sedation, muscle relaxation, and analgesia. While this drop in blood pressure is intended to be therapeutic in controlled veterinary settings, it can be severely dangerous for humans. Acute xylazine toxicity, especially when mixed with other illicit substances, can significantly lower someone’s heart rate, leading to bradycardia. This combination of low blood pressure and a slower-than-normal heart rate can be incredibly life-threatening. Hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar or glucose, is caused by the effects of xylazine suppressing insulin release.

In addition to being a sedative, xylazine is an analgesic whose primary role is to manage and treat pain. Analgesics, also known as painkillers or pain relievers, treat different pain conditions, such as headaches, injuries, or arthritis. As an analgesic substance, xylazine relaxes skeletal muscles, which can contribute to impaired motor skills or response to external stimuli. Illicit xylazine use on humans, specifically when injected, has been linked to skin wounds, ulcers, and abscesses that don’t heal properly. The toxic effects of the zombie drug on blood circulation contribute to xylazine-induced skin ulcers or wounds, increasing the risk of secondary infection and wound necrosis.

xylazine drug overdose and addiction

Xylazine Use and Overdose: Seeking Addiction Treatment for Substance Abuse

Understanding the severe health risks of xylazine use, or “the zombie drug,” is critical for not only preventing illicit drug use but also drug overdose deaths. With its emergence in the illicit drug market, xylazine, or tranq, should not be used outside of veterinary medicine. Xylazine use and abuse can lead to severe health complications, physically and psychologically.

With drug overdose deaths continuing to rise in the U.S., staying away from illicit drugs and drug mixtures can help prevent the lethal risk. Since xylazine is a non-opioid analgesic, naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, is not as effective. However, if someone is experiencing a xylazine overdose, you can administer naloxone while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

Battling with substance abuse can be challenging to handle on your own, but you don’t have to. Here at Coastal Detox, we’re here to help you every step of the way in the detox and recovery process. If you need addiction treatment or drug detox in Stuart, FL, reach out today!