All about Xylazine (Tranq): Slang Names, Uses, Effects, Risks and How to Get Help
Xylazine has become particularly prevalent in illicit opioid supplies in the northeastern and southern portions of the United States and is slowly starting to reach across to the west coast as well. As a adulterant or enhancer to other drugs, people who use illegal substances may be unaware of xylazine being contained in their street drugs, which can lead to a host of devastating consequences.
Tranq’s side effects are known to be particularly harsh, leading to heightened attention in many public health and law enforcement circles. Still, unlike fentanyl, xylazine and its side effects remain largely unknown to the general public, often leading to devastating unintentional outcomes.
In This Article
What Is Xylazine? Is Tranq the same as Xylazine? Xylazine Other Names & Brands
Xylazine (pronounced syelazyne) is a non-opioid anesthetic. In the United States, xylazine is typically used in veterinary offices as a tranquilizer, muscle relaxant, and pain reliever, which is why it is also known as “Tranq”. It is frequently used on animals in combination with ketamine.
Veterinarians, particularly livestock veterinarians, use xylazine as a pre-surgery anesthetic under xylazine brand names Rompun®, Sedazine®, AnaSed®. While the FDA has approved xylazine for use in animals, it is not safe for use in humans and can cause several harmful side effects.
While xylazine is a synthetic central nervous system depressant, its effects are closer to those of drugs like tricyclic antidepressants or clonidine, and essentially considered a clonidine analog. The subjective effects of xylazine include blurred vision, disorientation, respiratory depression, and loss of motor control.
It is particularly hazardous to consume xylazine when it is combined with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines.
Despite this, xylazine is frequently used as a recreational drug or combined with drugs such as heroin or fentanyl. Xylazine has a number of slang or street names, including:
- Tranq dope
- Philly dope
- Zombie drug
- De caballo
- Cardi B
- Collateral damage
One of the Fastest Growing Drugs in Popularity in the U.S.A Is Xylazine (Tranq)
Xylazine is prevalent in certain areas, particularly in Pennsylvania. Recent reports from the area have shown that drug overdoses involving xylazine have increased there from 2% in 2015 to 26% in 2020. In Maryland, xylazine was involved in 19% of all drug overdoses in 2021 — and in Connecticut, it was involved in 10% of drug overdoses.
Numbers from the DEA have shown that xylazine is most prevalent in the Northeast and Southern regions of the United States. While xylazine is less common on the West coast, the prevalence of xylazine in lab-tested samples from that area has doubled between 2020 and 2021.
People who use xylazine do so by either smoking, snorting, or injecting it into the bloodstream. Yet many people are unaware that their purchased drugs even contain xylazine, as dealers frequently use it to bulk up drugs like fentanyl or heroin.
Xylazine as a "Mix Drug" -Polysubstance Contaminant
For the most part, xylazine is not used as a recreational drug by itself. Instead, it is an adulterant or “polydrug” that is mixed with opioids, such as heroin, or synthetic opioids, like fentanyl (Tranq fentanyl). The causal factors leading to xylazine’s growing popularity are still relatively unknown, but the drug may act as a means of making illicit street drugs feel more potent.
Since xylazine is a widely used chemical for livestock, it can easily be purchased online with little oversight. Several pounds of xylazine can be bought for as little as ten dollars, according to the DEA, which means it can be a lucrative way for drug dealers to increase the potency and weight of illicit substances.
Mixing central nervous system depressants can lead to an effect known as potentiation. Adding two depressant drugs together can multiply the intensity of their effects, making expensive street drugs, such as heroin or fentanyl, more cost-effective for buyers and drug dealers alike.
Yet with the added intensity of xylazine as a contaminant, the use of these drugs is much more likely to result in severe physical side effects, overdose, and even death.
Even when it is used alone, xylazine has several risks, and just a small amount can lead to an accidental overdose.
What happens when you use Tranq? Wounds, Unique Risks & Dangerous Effects of Using Xylazine (Tranq)
Xylazine use has a wide range of physical side effects, above and beyond what someone might experience if they were using heroin or fentanyl alone.
The most glaring side effect — and why people often call the drug “zombie drug” — is xylazine’s users’ scaly wounds of dead tissue. Abscesses and skin ulcers are commonly reported side effects of injecting drugs contaminated with xylazine, according to a recent academic study. These wounds are often very difficult to treat, and in some cases, this has led to limb amputations.
Furthermore, xylazine increases the risk of accidental overdose when combined with depressant or stimulant drugs. The powerful anesthetic properties of the drug make it more likely for people to experience respiratory depression as a result of a drug overdose.
And like with all recreational drugs, xylazine comes with a significant risk of addiction. People who use opioids contaminated with xylazine may face heightened drug withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop, invasive drug cravings, and growing tolerance that requires more of the substance to be used to achieve the desired effects.
Risk of Unintentional Xylazine Overdose
Overdose is perhaps the most significant risk factor with xylazine contamination. When xylazine, a respiratory depressant, is combined with central nervous system depressants, such as heroin, fentanyl, or benzodiazepines, it can quickly lead to stopped breathing, loss of consciousness, and death.
However, the dangers of xylazine overdose extend beyond the effects of the drug itself. While the opioid epidemic has caused drug overdose rates to climb exponentially in the last several years, there has been a glimmer of hope in the form of the opioid reversal drug naloxone. Naloxone can quickly and totally reverse even severe opioid overdoses, including fentanyl, provided that it is swiftly administered. But since xylazine is not an opioid, people who have overdosed on opioids laced with xylazine may not be able to recover.
Many people using illicit opioids may not know that their drugs are contaminated with xylazine. Even if people who use substances recreationally are trying to protect themselves and their friends by taking harm prevention measures, contaminated drug supplies could lead to accidental overdose and death.
Finding help for Xylazine, Tranq drug addiction or abuse
If you or someone you know may be struggling with unwanted xylazine misuse, they may be stuck in a cycle of addiction, which can be almost impossible to break out of alone. Addiction usually causes one to obsess over the substance they have developed a dependency on, and to seek it out and use it at all costs, even when it may be detrimental to them or their relationships. Additionally, most addictions stem from an underlying emotional or mental cause which may need to be addressed professionally and carefully in a thorough and deep manner.
If someone you care about is exhibiting signs of social or emotional deterioration, as well as other behaviors that may hint at a substance misuse or addiction, you might want to help them research the best available options for caring for and recovering from addiction. Someone stuck in a cycle of addiction may need longer term inpatient care, or a lower level of care, depending on their situation and circumstances. This evaluation is best done by a trained and certified addiction treatment specialist or a doctor. All quality addiction rehabilitation facilities provide access to proper evaluation of treatment needs, along with full applicable health screenings.
Along with finding the suitable care options, you may want to turn to an addiction care provider to assist you in finding a way to encourage and convince the one struggling with addiction to go ahead and commit themselves to treatment. This intervention is usually successful only when approached with sincere respect and compassion.