Xylezine is on the (drug) scene


This post is a bit different than my previous posts, but important, nonetheless. Whether you are a person who uses/used drugs, know someone that uses/used drugs, or if you work with folks who use, this community alert post is for you!

The Issue

A (somewhat) novel substance called Xylazine is showing up in the illicit drug supply [especially in the Northeast]. Xylazine is most commonly found in illicit opioid substances, such as fentanyl, pressed pills, and heroin, but is also increasingly being found in other substances such as cocaine or meth.

According to Christine Vestal, a staff writer for Stateline, “Xylazine started showing up routinely in the drug supply in 2019 but didn’t take off until the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020 (Vestal, 2023). The Northeast is most significantly impacted by this novel substance, with CT ranking 3rd highest out of all these United States, regarding

What We Know

According to the Food and Drug Administration, Xylazine (Zie-luh-zeen) is a non-opioid agent that FDA originally approved in 1972 as a sedative for use in veterinary medicine and is not approved in the use of humans (FDA, 2022).” Xylazine may be sold under the common street names, tranq, tranq dope, sleep-cut, and gas station heroin.

Associated Health Risks

– Heavy sedation

– Significant risk of overdose & death

– May impact the body’s ability to carry oxygen to tissues, causing severe skin wounds

– agitation, severe anxiety, a feeling of unease

– high blood pressure & rapid heart rate, though not always present

Repeated exposure or use may lead to dependence & withdrawal symptoms. Some users report Xylazine withdrawal symptoms as being as, or more, severe than heroin or methadone; symptoms include sharp chest pains & seizures (DEA, 2022). Xylazine withdrawal symptoms may interfere with or undermine any efforts of obtaining appropriate OUD treatment and may even further perpetuate an individual’s drug use, according to the DEA (2022).

Xylazine & Naloxone

– Xylazine does not respond to Naloxone, however, Naloxone should always be administered anytime an opioid overdose is suspected

– Oxygen therapy/rescue breathing must be administered in the event Naloxone is not effective in the reversal of the overdose event, highlighting the heightened importance of calling 911 in the event of an overdose

– More education must be provided to the public, to dispel many misconceptions on how to respond to an overdose appropriately, including how much Naloxone to administer & the need to provide rescue breathing between doses of Naloxone

How WE Can Respond

-Share the signs & symptoms of xylazine exposure with PWUD and folks that work with at-risk individuals

The most critical thing we can do is continue to educate the public about the presence of Xylazine in the drug supply, especially increasing awareness among folks most at-risk for encountering the drug. A great example is depicted below. The Savage Sister organization passes out these informational cards to people who use drugs during street outreach in Pennsylvania.


Farm to City: Xylazine as a Drug of Abuse

In Philadelphia, ‘tranq’ is leaving drug users with horrific wounds. Other communities are bracing for the same