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Updated: January 20, 2023

Xylazine, aka Tranq Dope, Found in San Diego Drug Seizures

Xylazine, a drug called “Tranq dope”, is being found more frequently in drug seizures in San Diego. For the people who use this drug, there are new dangers. It’s often found in fentanyl and is also used as an additive in other opioids like heroin. It’s a disturbing new challenge for people trying to overcome opioid use disorder.

Xylazine Is Found in Local Drug Seizures

In recent years, xylazine has been found in large drug seizures across the US. Usually, it is added to drugs such as heroin or Oxy. While few overdoses on the West Coast have detected the drug, San Diego authorities say xylazine has been found in seized drugs 23 times in the last two fiscal years between San Diego and Imperial counties. While this isn’t indicative of widespread use, it’s a growing pattern that concerns authorities.

On the East Coast, including Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, xylazine has quickly established itself as a drug of concern, added to drugs like fentanyl to create a more substantial buzz. Just like fentanyl, it’s being added to other drugs without people knowing. More than 40% of street drug samples tested in Rhode Island contained xylazine, according to recent research.

What Is Xylazine?

Xylazine is a drug that has never been approved for human use. Its main purpose is the sedation of large animals such as horses. It is technically a muscle relaxant for horses. In the past few years, the drug has been making major headway on the East Coast, where it is added to other drugs. It has been found in heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.

The sedation caused by xylazine can lead to an overdose death. If a person who has taken fentanyl also has taken xylazine, it may be much harder to reverse the overdose. Naloxone, an opioid-overdose reversal drug, does not work in reversing xylazine toxicity. The person who overdoses may have the opioids reversed but not wake up. Xylazine can cause coma and death when a person overdoses on it.

The Dangers of Xylazine, aka Tranq Dope

Xylazine is a drug that is still being understood in the medical community. There are a few things that the DEA has told medical providers about it, such as the fact that the “high” starts within minutes and lasts for hours.

Inside a person’s body, xylazine relaxes muscles by decreasing the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system. It has a profoundly sedating effect.

People high on xylazine may experience blurred vision, low blood pressure, and sleepiness/drowsiness/nodding out. It can cause hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and can be dangerous for people with medical conditions affected by blood sugar.

More blatant is the type of wound that xylazine may leave on its users. People often end up with painful, easily infected skin ulcers when they’ve taken a drug containing xylazine. The wound usually isn’t in the same place they injected it and can still occur if they didn’t inject it, making it a hazard for all accidental users.

On the East Coast, especially in places like Pennsylvania, where xylazine use has become endemic, users have become addicted to the drug. This means they only seek out opioids containing it. When they decide to get sober, this adds an extra challenge because they’re typically going to experience withdrawal symptoms that Medication-Assisted Treatment can’t suppress. Treatment centers are still learning to cope with the challenge but are ready to help anyone who wants to get sober, regardless of the challenges. Medications still exist to help minimize withdrawal symptoms.

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