Tranq is the latest street drug — but it’s not by anyone’s choice. In many drug hot zones around the country, an animal tranquilizer called Xylazine — or better known by its street names “tranq,” “tranq dope” or “zombie drugs” — is being mixed in with fentanyl to make the effects of the drug stronger and that much more devastating.
In Philadelphia, CNN reported that 90% of street drugs samples contain tranq. Back in 2021, xylazine was the reason for 34% of overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Because xylazine is a sedative, and not an opioid like many other drugs on the street, it is resistant to the standard opioid overdose reversal treatments, thus resulting in more deaths.
The drug, known by the scientific name is xylazine, is used as an animal tranquilizer. It is used mostly on elephants, which range from 5,000 to 14,000 pounds. It is a powerful sedative that is not approved for use in humans. Since it is not listed as a controlled substance, it is not subject to strict monitoring, so it is not on the radar of federal law enforcement. Because of this, xylazines true prevalence is not know.
Users did not want xylazine but now are highly addicted to it. The street drug of choice has changed from heroin to fentanyl since it became cheaper and easier to access. However, many people who have been getting fentanyl were not aware of this new version in which tranq was being incorporated into the drug. It creates a problem, since xylazine is highly addictive. Once people have it once, they crave it even more.
The effects of xylazine are extremely noticeable. When it is in the human body, users will first start becoming noticeably happy, dancing and having a good time to suddenly not moving. Users seem to enter a zombie-like trance, becoming motionless and unable to do anything.
Besides being motionless for hours, another major issue is tranq causing skin wounds that do not heal. Doctors don’t know why this is, and thus are unable to help many patients who come in. One user interviewed by CNN said his wound was open for 21 months. Some users have even had to have amputations as a result of their wounds. Another person said they see people die from the drug everyday on the streets of Philadelphia.
Tranq is not only affecting Philadelphia, as it is being spread across the Untied States in many cities, including Washington D.C. and New York City. In Fox News, they reported more cases of the drug in Seattle and said many people do not remember anything after being on it.
This past November, the Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide four-page xylazine alert to clinicians as they are still trying to find a cure to close the wounds it is causing.
Sarah Laurel, founder of Savage Sisters, is one person who’s shared her story about getting addicted to heroin. She had a Percocet prescription that led her into being heavily addicted to heroin. When she decided to become sober, she started Savage Sisters in Philadelphia, which is a non-profit harm reduction organization that offers nurses for open wound care as well as showers. Resources such as this is one way people are being taken care of due to the fentanyl and tranq drug epidemic.
The drug epidemic is taking a turn for the worse with tranq being included without people knowing. For ways to help, visit sites like savagesisters.org and see what you can do.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is currently working to make xylazine a controlled substance, and the Food and Drug Administration is trying to make changes ensuring that the drug will only be used on animals.