Xylazine Effects and Treatment Options

Xylazine, also known as tranq or zombie drug, is a sedative and tranquilizer used for large animals like horses and cows. Registered veterinarians administer this in suitable doses when they need to perform surgery on these animals. It is not approved by the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is not intended for human use.

The United States is seeing an increase in xylazine-laced drug overdoses. Learn more about the side effects of xylazine and treatment options for xylazine addiction.

What Is Xylazine?

Xylazine gained popularity in the United States over the last few years. Although it is not an opioid, the effects are similar, and users allegedly experience an extended high when adulterated with other substances, like fentanyl, heroin or cocaine. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that, in 2022, 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills contained xylazine.

The increased use is largely due to the low cost and availability of the drug. A kilogram costs significantly less than other drugs and provides a long-term supply for one or multiple users. It is added to — also referred to as laced with or cut with — opioids like fentanyl to enhance its effects and subdue the user at length.

There is no current medical treatment for xylazine. Medicine like naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, is ineffective when administered to xylazine users because it is not an opioid. 

The urgency around addressing and eradicating this life-threatening social endemic is becoming more apparent as officials document the impacts this drug has on communities. Educating people on what xylazine is, the forms it is found and used in and its effects could help prevent further deaths.

Side Effects and Dangers of Xylazine

There are numerous serious side effects and dangers associated with xylazine abuse. The biggest one is death due to overdose. Users are often unaware that their fix is laced with xylazine, increasing the risk of overdosing. 

Xylazine can be ingested, snorted, injected or inhaled, and the side effects may last for a few hours. Some of these symptoms or effects have been reported by users directly due to a lack of drug trials being done in a controlled environment:

  • Dry mouth
  • Slow heart rate
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood pressure
  • High sugar levels
  • Hypothermia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Necrosis or lesions on the skin
  • Disorientation
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision

The effects of using xylazine alone are powerful, but using it with an opioid intensifies the effects. For example, a side effect of fentanyl is drowsiness. When combined with xylazine — a large-mammal sedative — it goes further than making the user drowsy. The combination suppresses the central nervous system and puts them in a deep state of relaxation, to the point that they may suffer respiratory depression and stop breathing altogether, especially with higher doses. 

When users inject xylazine, they sometimes develop skin ulcers and abscesses at the site of injection, which could eventually lead to necrosis. The drug affects the tissue surrounding the needle’s entry point, causing a rapid decrease in cell growth and inhibiting the skin’s ability to regenerate tissue. The damage to the skin is often so bad that amputation is required. 

This side effect is one of the telltale signs of xylazine abuse, so treatment should be sought as soon as possible once identified. Treatment generally involves taking antibiotics and applying topical ointment if the wounds are not extensive. 

Signs of Addiction to Xylazine

Because xylazine is addictive, users may experience physical withdrawal symptoms like seizures and chest pains. They may also suffer from anxiety and depression when they go without it for long periods. 

Treating the root cause of addiction is the best way to handle the symptoms associated with withdrawal. 

Treatment Options

Hope for Tomorrow has various treatment options to help if you are struggling with the effects of xylazine addiction. These treatments are tailored to your individual needs, giving you the best chance at recovery and reduced risk of relapse. We know the road to recovery is long and we want to be there for and with you every step of the way.

Treatment options include:

  • Residential Treatment: We provide you with full care at an on-site facility in West Virginia, where medical professionals attend to your daily needs, along with individual and group therapy sessions. Included in this plan is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), where medication like Suboxone helps wean you and offers support to deal with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Addiction Counseling: Our addiction counseling services focus on addressing the cause of your addiction through counseling and identifying triggers to equip you when you leave the security of our clinics. We offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment, as well as individual and group substance use and family counseling. These are applied based on your specific needs.
  • Continuing Care Treatment: Hope for Tomorrow arms you with the tools to cope with everyday life after you leave the facility. We do this by offering consistent support well after treatment so you know there is always a safety net when you need it. 
  • Outpatient Therapy: This treatment option is suitable if you cannot commit to a full-time program due to personal obligations. Your addiction may be milder and considerably controllable, enough for you to function throughout the day. Or you may choose outpatient therapy as an additional coping mechanism when you are facing the daily challenges of sobriety and social stigmas associated with being a user. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Program: Our intensive outpatient program is a hands-off yet effective approach if you need the support of an addiction center like Hope for Tomorrow, with the flexibility of choosing when you want to participate. You can schedule your individual and group therapy sessions after hours and apply the skills you learn throughout the course of your day. Accountability is key with this program, but you will never lack support or be alone if this is the best option for you. 
  • ASAM Levels of Care: Our intake professionals determine treatment options based on the treatment levels of care set by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The lowest level is 0.5, where early intervention could prevent escalation. Level 4 is the highest and requires in-patient treatment. 

We Are Here for You

Hope for Tomorrow will help you decide what treatment suits your current needs and tailor your program accordingly. We never want you to feel like you are alone, and we strive to offer everything you need to ensure you are equipped to deal with life and integrate into society post-treatment. 

With your help, we will identify your level of treatment and take the necessary steps and course of action to build the foundation for a new beginning. We are with you all the way — from the moment you reach out to beyond your care at our facilities. 

Contact any of our clinics near you to get advice on the way forward. We are here and ready to help.