By Caleb Yauger
“This is a major public health emergency,” said Dr. Philip Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Gaudenzia, an addiction treatment organization.
As the opioid crisis continues to rattle the country, the sedative xylazine, which is an FDA-approved veterinary tranquilizer, is making its way into opioids.
Xylazine is typically used as an adulterant to fentanyl.
In other words, this is not meant for human ingestion.
“The veterinarians use it for surgical procedures on large farming animals,” Dr. Moore said. “When you combine that with an opioid, what you get is extremely powerful.”
AHN St. Vincent Unveiled New Mural
The typical solution to treating an opioid overdose is to use naloxone, which reverses the effects of the overdose. Since xylazine is not an opioid, however, this procedure does not work.
The effects of xylazine can also be so severe to the skin that it can require amputation.
“These aren’t just scrapes and cuts,” said Brandi Ernst, Chief Impact Officer of Gaudenzia. “They are wounds to the bone.”
It is also becoming more frequently available on the streets.
“[Users] might not have initially been looking for it, but now since it’s really permeated the illicit drug market, you can barely do with that,” Ernst said. “You can barely buy drugs without it.”
Users are experiencing withdrawal much quicker than other drugs, which can be experienced in as little as two to three hours.
“Once it started getting into their system, it made their withdrawals that much more difficult and made them want it more,” Ernst said.