The United States is currently facing its deadliest drug threat ever, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. This crisis is fueled by a drug called Xylazine, which is increasingly being referred to as the "zombie drug." The threat of this drug is so severe that the US administration has placed Fentanyl adulterated xylazine under the "emerging threat" category. This is the first time this category has been used since its establishment in 2018.
The effects of the drug have also spilled over to other countries, with a death reported in the UK and the crisis growing in Canada.
Here's everything you need to know about this "zombie drug" that is becoming a major menace:
What is Xylazine?
Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for sedation and muscle relaxation purposes in non-human mammals only. It is not approved for human use due to its hazardous side effects, as confirmed by clinical trials.
The side effects of xylazine can be life-threatening, especially when combined with opioids like Fentanyl. Both substances are psychoactive and intensify the effects that a person feels. Xylazine can produce hypertension followed by a slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, and respiratory depression, along with physical and mental deterioration.
Why the Nickname "Zombie Drug"?
One of the dangerous side effects of xylazine is the formation of skin ulcers, open wounds, and lesions. These sores can develop into deep wounds that may require amputation of affected body parts. This is why it has been nicknamed the "zombie drug."
Supply and Usage
Cartels are now combining xylazine with strong opioids such as heroin and Fentanyl to reduce the costs of producing large batches of these drugs. The adulteration of xylazine in these drugs has led to unexpected side effects in users.
A troubling factor about xylazine is that it is not an opioid, which makes overdose reversal harder since it doesn't respond to medication such as Narcan. Users have also reported that rehabilitation centers are struggling due to a lack of proper protocol in cases of non-opioid dependence, making the rehabilitation process even more painful.
While multiple US states have classified xylazine as a controlled substance, advocates are concerned that this could lead to punishment for active addiction rather than paving the way for better addiction treatment.