Ever-changing trends in the nation’s opioid epidemic have resulted in an increasingly tainted drug supply in the United States.
More than ever, drug overdoses are now linked to substances that have been mixed with fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that has largely replaced heroin as the primary driver of drug dependency and death in the U.S.
Now, Veterinarians are reporting that some people struggling with addiction are seeking drugs that are meant specifically for use in animals.
According to AWM, modern-day addicts also have to be concerned about the reality that drug deals lace their illicit products with other drugs, including a popular flesh-eating drug that has been getting mixed into doses of heroin, cocaine, and other drugs popular with street addicts. The drug that is causing such terrible overdoses besides fentanyl is xylazine, a muscle relaxant meant for large animals like horses.
The vet tranquilizer, xylazine, is now implicated in almost a third of fatal overdoses involving heroin and/or fentanyl in Philadelphia, reveals research published online in the journal Injury Prevention.
It was detected in less than 2% of such cases between 2010 and 2015, prompting the study authors to call for stricter monitoring of the misuse of this substance across the continental USA.
Xylazine is a non-opioid sedative, painkiller, and muscle relaxant that is used in veterinary medicine. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for use in people.
Drug users in Puerto Rico have been using it since the early 2000s and it has increasingly appeared in the illicit drug supply across the US.
Xylazine can dangerously lower blood pressure as well as depress central nervous system activity, breathing, and heart rate. It has also been linked to open skin ulcers among those who inject it.
The drug also causes injection points to “ulcerate.” This means that sores and wounds form and fester, which can lead to a painful situation for those who inject the drug without knowing about it. The muscle relaxant can also lead people to pass out for hours at a time due to its significant strength.
Some people who have injected the drug report suffering from soaring across their body – even in places where they never injected xylazine. These people claim that the drug has left their bodies completely disfigured as they have been forced to undergo surgery to amputate limbs and other parts of their bodies, like arms, legs, fingers, and toes.
“As skin ulcers are painful, people may continually inject at the site of the ulcer to alleviate the pain as xylazine is a potent α2-adrenergic agonist that… decreases the perception of painful stimuli,” a 2021 report in Injury Prevention said, “People may self-treat the wound by draining or lancing it, which can exacerbate negative outcomes.”
Sam Brennan, a drug addict from the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, claims that “it’s eating away at my skin” every time she injects something that has been laced with xylazine.
Prompted by reports from active drug users in the city that xylazine had increasingly featured in the illicit drug supply in Philadelphia, the authors sought to uncover any discernible trends. In Philadelphia, the street name for xylazine is ‘tranq’, and heroin and fentanyl cut with xylazine are referred to as ‘tranq dope’. Fentanyl has largely replaced heroin since 2015 in the city.
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