Drug popularity rises and falls as if at random, a tide dependent largely on the unseen. One factor unites these fluctuations, however, and fuels its own demand. When it comes to addiction, some substances ensure it simply by being available.
Recently, the zombie drug xylazine has not only made itself available, but unavoidable. Many users of fentanyl have found their drug of choice to be cut with what was originally intended only as veterinary anesthesia. Despite not having asked for it, dependencies are forming on what is proving to be a truly unpleasant chemical.
Read on to find out more.
What Is the Zombie Drug Xylazine?
Xylazine is a strong non-opiate sedative used exclusively for veterinary purposes. Its use has not been approved for humans, and likely never will be. The recent surge in the presence of xylazine as an adulterant in fentanyl is proving the drug has many serious and easily identifiable side effects.
The moniker given to the drug alludes to two of the most common effects of regular use. Namely, an unconscious, shambling appearance and a tendency for wounds to appear randomly before necrotizing. That is to say, sufferers lose their ability to heal and are plagued by seemingly random sores.
If you’ve ever seen someone standing around as if frozen in place, barely managing to stay upright, this is likely due to xylazine-laced fentanyl. This animal tranquilizer has such a profound effect on humans as to render us practically unconscious on our feet.
How Has Xylazine Appeared So Quickly?
Illegal drugs have always been cut to increase revenue. Due to the fact illegal substances aren’t regulated for purity, dealers are free to adulterate them however they see fit to maximize profits. One of the most popular avenues is to simply pad out the bulk of the product with something innocuous to increase its weight directly.
Xylazine is an addition that follows this train of thought, but to a more nefarious conclusion. Rather than simply adding weight to fentanyl, xylazine directly lends itself to the effect sought. The addition of xylazine causes the effects of fentanyl to last much longer and be felt more potently. It’s not hard to see the appeal from the perspective of both the user and the distributor.
The bottom line for organized crime is profit. The opportunity to make considerably more money by including xylazine in the product they’re selling has been seized with relish. The ethical conundrum of its egregious side effects has proved no barrier in the face of ringing every cent from anyone unfortunate enough to cross its path.
Xylazine: Its Strength and Danger
The strength of the drugs available on the street has only continued to increase since the time heroin was considered the most severe addiction. It wasn’t so long ago that heroin was demonized as a one-way ticket to an inescapable dependency that would most assuredly destroy the life of anyone partaking of it. Heroin is now considered somewhat tame in comparison to far more powerful and readily available alternatives.
To put things in perspective, fentanyl is fifty times stronger than heroin. It kills people daily, and among groups of people who frequently use it, death is as commonplace as dinner. It’s not uncommon for users to have many stories of their resuscitation from an overdose, or having saved the lives of others with a shot of Narcan.
The addition of xylazine to fentanyl is particularly disastrous for two reasons. Symptoms of withdrawal begin after only two hours without fentanyl, but the effects of xylazine persist for around eight, leaving users completely without agency against them. Some of the symptoms of acute fentanyl withdrawal are life-threatening, such as vomiting and sudden onset heart arrhythmia.
Xylazine is also not an opiate derivative. This means that when someone is overdosing on what’s presumed to be fentanyl, Narcan does not affect it. It’s worth noting that Narcan should be administered anyway in these situations, as it will still help if the sufferer has fentanyl in their system.
Health Impacts of Xylazine
Xylazine use causes the user to nod off in the first 20 to 30 minutes after use, after which they’ll be deeply sedated for several hours. In an atmosphere of drug abuse, this puts the user in significant danger from the people around them as they’re unable to defend themselves. Even if left undisturbed, pressure sores and other complications can arise from lying in a single position for hours on end.
Death can occur at any moment for an unconscious individual under its effects. Xylazine causes severe depression in the normal functioning of our central nervous system, meaning people relax to such a degree that they’ll choke to death on their tongue without realizing it. People also suffocate in their vomit without receiving any signals of distress to move or wake up like they would have done under the effects of a less potent drug.
Rhabdomyolysis is a severe condition that describes the process of muscle tissue breaking down. When muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood, our hearts and kidneys are often irreparably damaged. Rhabdomyolysis can cause permanent disability and sometimes even be fatal as its onset is often sudden and unexpected.
Skin wounds are also commonly occurring in people who use xylazine, both intravenously and otherwise. It’s not yet understood why persistent skin wounds occur for people no matter their avenue of ingestion, but it’s certainly a worrying unknown. As this addiction and its effects are studied, we may yet find xylazine to be even more sinister than first expected.
No matter how hopeless things may seem in the face of substance abuse disorder, there’s always a way to get back on your feet. Battling with chemical dependency isn’t something you need to do alone. Experts in the field have helped thousands of people escape from the chains of substance abuse.
If you’re currently struggling with the zombie drug Xylazine, or know someone who is, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you’re curious about our substance use disorder programs or what else we can do to help with the disease of addiction, let us know!