A ‘New’ Cutting Agent on the Scene
Cutting drugs with other substances is hardly a new concept. Dealers and manufacturers of street drugs have been using cutting agents to increase profitability for decades. Some may use basic household or cooking products like baking soda as the cutting agent, while others may use another illicit substance.
As the opioid epidemic continues to worsen, a significant factor in that has been the growing popularity of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin, as a cutting agent, particularly in cocaine.
What happens, though, when fentanyl stops being the cutting agent and instead becomes the drug being cut? Enter Xylazine.
What Is Xylazine?
Xylazine is a cheap veterinary tranquilizer that is not controlled by the federal government. While hardly new overall, xylazine is new to the world of street drugs and is causing dangerous health risks.
The new “fad” in the cutting of street drugs is using the tranquilizer as a cutting agent for fentanyl.
The street name for this latest concoction of fentanyl cut with xylazine is Tranq Dope (the street name of xylazine on its own is “tranq”).
While fentanyl can be dangerous enough on its own, cutting it with xylazine takes the effects and danger associated with fentanyl to a whole new level.
When mixed, tranq dope amplifies and extends the high that fentanyl produces. The xylazine also restricts blood flow through skin tissue, which leads to serious health complications, including unhealing necrotic ulcers, which, when left untreated, can lead to amputation.
Also, because xylazine is a tranquilizer and acts as a sedative, Naloxone, the usual antidote for reversing opioid overdose effects, is much less effective in treating those who have overdosed on Tranq Dope.
Where Is Xylazine Being Used for Spiking?
One city that is being hit particularly hard with tranq dope is Philadelphia. According to a Philadelphia Department of Public Health report, over 90% of lab-tested street opioid samples contained xylazine.
While Philadelphia may be the hardest-hit area at the moment, it’s hardly the only affected area. Citing a June 2022 study by the National Library of Medicine, the NY Times reported that xylazine was detected in the street drug supply in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
Unlike many other street drugs and illicit substances, the ability to truly track the prevalence of xylazine is tough to do. While hospitals test for many different types of legal and illegal drugs, xylazine is not one of them, and it is also rarely tested for by state medical examiners.
The FDA and other federal organizations have been attempting to educate the public about xylazine, but there is a further complication: Xylazine is technically not illegal. The FDA approved the tranquilizer 50 years ago as a veterinarian-prescribed analgesic. As a result, it is not listed as a controlled substance for either animals or humans and, therefore, not under strict monitoring by any government agency.
As with any other substance of abuse, if you encounter someone experiencing a tranq dope overdose, call 911 immediately before attempting to administer care. Additionally, if you or a loved one are experiencing any adverse effects from taking any type of substance, legal or not, seek medical attention immediately.
For those suffering from substance abuse and addiction, it’s important to remember that it is never too late to get help. Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357, or visit their online program locator to find addiction treatment options near you.
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