Xylazine: A Dangerous Drug with Devastating Consequences

Xylazine is a central nervous system depressant primarily used as a sedative and muscle relaxant in veterinary medicine. Also known as “tranq dope,” xylazine is not approved for human use. Unfortunately, it is often added to drugs like heroin, fentanyl, benzodiazepines, and cocaine. Misusing xylazine can lead to extreme drowsiness, loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, and an increased risk of overdose. It has also been linked to flesh-eating skin abscesses, severe infections, and irreversible bodily damage. The combination of fentanyl and xylazine has significantly increased overdose deaths, making it essential to raise awareness about the dangers of this lethal combination and seek help for those struggling with substance abuse

In this blog post, we’ll explore xylazine’s toxic effects and its relationship with fentanyl. We’ll also discuss whether a xylazine overdose can be reversed and what options are available for treating substance use disorder.

Opioids are a type of drug that is typically used to relieve pain. They bind to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which helps decrease pain perception. Opioids can be either natural or synthetic (man-made). Natural opioids include morphine (derived from the poppy plant) and codeine (derived from the opium poppy). Synthetic opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. 

Opioids are generally safe when used as directed by a physician. However, they can be addictive, and misusing them can lead to severe consequences. Opioids should only be used as directed by a healthcare professional and never be taken more often or in greater quantities than prescribed. Opioid addiction is a severe problem in the United States, and misusing opioids can lead to overdose and death.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic that is like morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful. It is a Schedule II prescription drug typically used to treat patients with severe pain or manage pain after surgery. Fentanyl can be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or through a patch. It is also available in a lozenge (often called a “lollipop”) form for oral use. 

Fentanyl works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which results in pain relief. However, because of its high potency, fentanyl can cause drowsiness, constipation, and respiratory depression. 

Fentanyl is a powerful and potentially dangerous drug and should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional. If you or someone you know is taking fentanyl, it is crucial to be aware of the signs of an overdose, which include slow or shallow breathing, extreme drowsiness, and cold, clammy skin. If you suspect an overdose, call 911 immediately.

Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizure disorders. They enhance the activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which produces a calming effect. 

Benzodiazepines can be either short-acting or long-acting. Some common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). 

Benzodiazepines can be addictive and have a high potential for abuse. Misusing benzodiazepines can lead to severe consequences, including overdose and death. 

Fentanyl-xylazine combination

The opioid epidemic has been a growing concern in recent years, and the use of fentanyl and xylazine together has made it worse. Combining these two drugs has significantly increased overdose deaths, as they can quickly shut down the body’s vital functions. 

The prevalence of the fentanyl-xylazine combination has been increasing in the past three years, particularly in regions like Missouri that have been heavily affected by the opioid epidemic. According to Dr. Ash Diwan, Medical Director of Sana Lake Recovery, “Overdose deaths from xylazine increased by 516% in the Midwest between 2020 and 2021.” These figures are expected to be even more profound once statistics from 2022 are available.

Can a xylazine overdose be reversed with Narcan?

Narcan (naloxone) is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to, which can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and restore normal breathing.  

However, it is important to note that Narcan is ineffective in reversing the effects of other drugs, such as xylazine. While Narcan can effectively reverse the respiratory depression caused by opioids, it cannot reverse the sedative effects caused by xylazine or other non-opioid drugs. 

Toxic effects of xylazine include: 

  • Blurred vision 
  • Disorientation 
  • Extreme drowsiness and instability 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Slow heart rate and breathing 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Constricted pupils 
  • Dangerously elevated levels of blood sugar 

If someone is experiencing an overdose of xylazine, they may need other treatments, such as respiratory support and close monitoring by medical professionals. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect someone may be experiencing an overdose, regardless of the drug involved.

Addiction treatment is available.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, we encourage you to reach out to Sana Lake Recovery. Our members have access to a full system of care that includes:  

  • 24/7 Medically Monitored Detox  
  • Residential Treatment  
  • Partial Hospitalization Program  
  • Intensive and General Outpatient Treatment  
  • Recovery Supportive Housing  
  • Psychiatric Medication Management  
  • Family Therapy  
  • Alumni Community  

We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and support you in taking the first step toward recovery.