What is Xylazine?

The drug xylazine has appeared in several news articles lately so it seemed appropriate to do a little digging and report what I find to my readers.

Xylazine is an animal sedative. Lately, it’s been found as an additive to the opioid fentanyl, because dealers of drugs say it extends and intensifies the effects of fentanyl. The trouble is that it makes overdose more likely.

Xylazine is not an opioid and is not reversed by Narcan. However, giving Narcan may still be life -saving in a xylazine overdose because it is usually used in combination with opioids. Narcan may reverse the opioid-induced portion of the overdose enough to get the person breathing again.

 Xylazine’s effects mimic other sedatives like benzodiazepines, though it’s not a benzodiazepine. It’s in the same class of medication as clonidine, though much more sedating. It is used by injecting, snorting, smoking, or swallowing.

Rather than coming from illicit drug manufacturing like the precursors to fentanyl, Xylazine appears to be diverted from veterinary suppliers to the black market to be added to fentanyl. It’s found more often in the Northeastern U.S., though incidence is rising in the South and West as well. According to data found on NIDA’s website, xylazine was found in 19% of all drug overdoses in Maryland in 2021, and Philadelphia has had high rates of xylazine contamination in their drug supply over the last few years.

Xylazine can cause a physical dependency and its main withdrawal symptom tends to be anxiety and depressed mood. The withdrawal can be mitigated with treatment with benzodiazepines.

Some specialists say repeated use of xylazine may cause skin ulcers ad cellulitis that are difficult to heal, though this property of the drug has only been confirmed in animal studies.

It’s difficult to get accurate data about this drug because many state toxicology labs don’t test for this substance, leading to possible underestimation of the incidence of its use.

Right now, xylazine isn’t on routine test panels, though it can be tested for specifically using gas chromatography/mass spectrophotometry methods.

Hopefully we will have more testing available soon for this drug. And I hope this drug threat disappears somehow. Treating fentanyl use is challenging enough without adding new sedatives to the mix.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin on February 6, 2023 at 1:55 am

    Thank you for all your information. I always share your blogs during our team meetings at my MAT clinic.


  2. Posted by Jimmy Luv on February 10, 2023 at 4:51 pm

    we’ve been seeing plenty of xylazine in florida for the last 3 years. typically, these stories and data take a long time to make the rounds, so i wouldnt be surprised to see it in pretty much every state if you know where/who to go/ask. its not just an up north thing, its a spanish thing. you see lots of xylazine for sale in miami and tampa and its always in spanish bottles from columbia, argentina, venzuala, the countries that do lots of horse stuff. there are even select groups of people that use the xylazine alone… and it doesnt look fun. seems somewhat dissociative, people fall out on it because they loose balance; def not my cup of tea.

    xylazine and isotonitazene showed up around the same time here about 3 years ago. all that news is about 2 years late. i know xylazine dope has been in NYC for almost a decade; the spanish have used it as cut for a long time and its only in recent years that its gained acceptance among more dealers as a viable adulterant for fent or iso because of the massive amount of fent and iso available from china currently. and sorry, i wasnt trying to make it sound racist about spanish, its just something that you only got from PR/Columbian dope dealers… when everyone was using lactone or inositol or mannitol, the PRs were using xylazine in addition to cut to make average heroin ‘better’ years ago.


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