US: A cheap animal tranquilizer being mass-manufactured in China and flooding America’s illicit drug supply is terrifying health officials.

‘The deadliest threat America’s ever faced’: Mass-produced in China, trafficked from Puerto Rico and available online for just $1 a KILO — why the flesh-rotting zombie drug ‘tranq’ has the DEA terrified

A cheap animal tranquilizer being mass-manufactured in China and flooding America’s illicit drug supply is terrifying health officials.

Xylazine, or ‘tranq’ as it’s known on the street, has been dubbed a ‘zombie drug’ due to the hunched-over, lifeless state it leaves users in and fact that it causes users’ bodies to erupt in gaping wounds.

It is mainly being mixed with fentanyl to create a fatal cocktail, which the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has described as ‘the deadliest threat our country has ever faced.’

The DEA is concerned for multiple reasons. Xylazine is unbelievably cheap – found the drug for low as $1 per kilogram on online Chinese pharmacies – and because it has some of the same euphoric effects as opioids, it’s highly addictive.

But xylazine has an even more sinister side. It causes a host of horrific side effects, including rotting skin and a zombified stupor dubbed the ‘dope lean.’ And – unlike fentanyl and other opioids – there is no antidote for overdoses, meaning taking too much xylazine can be a death sentence.

Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer developed in the 1960s to help vets treating cows, horses and sheep, and other large to medium animals.

Drug dealers in Puerto Rico began using it as a cutting agent in the early 2000s to make their supply of more expensive drugs like heroin and cocaine last longer. A kilogram of xylazine can be 15 times cheaper than fentanyl and 16 times cheaper than cocaine, for example.

Xylazine has a longer duration than drugs like fentanyl, which gives the impression of a longer-lasting ‘high’ in users. It also gives boosts the intensity of the euphoria experienced with other drugs.

Experts estimate that at one point, xylazine was present in 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s supply of those substances. However, within a decade, users became dependent on xylazine by itself.

By 2006, the illicit tranq made its first appearance in the continental US. At first, its presence was ‘sporadic,’ the DEA said, but it steadily increased throughout the mid-2010s.

Xylazine is easy to make, as it’s been around since the 1960s for approved use in animals, which leads to it being produced at industrial levels in Chinese labs.

Despite recent congressional pushes to make xylazine a controlled substance, which would criminalize its use, the drug is still widely available online, making it easier to flood into the east coast of America undetected.

Cases have skyrocketed. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that monthly overdose deaths involving xylazine rose from 12 in January 2019 to 188 in June 2022. It also found monthly fentanyl overdoses involving xylazine rose by 276 percent in just over three years.

However, these figures only looked at 20 states, plus DC.

In a March report, the DEA stated that illicit xylazine has been found in 48 out of 50 states. In 2020, there were 808 drug overdoses reported in which xylazine played a role. That figure rose to 3,089 in 2021.

The greatest increase in xylazine spread between 2020 and 2021 was in the south, with a 193 percent jump.

The amount increased by 112 percent in the West, 61 percent in the Northeast, and just seven percent in the Midwest.

However, the DEA stated that the northeast still has the highest amount of illicit xylazine.

‘It is very likely the prevalence of xylazine is widely underestimated,’ the October report states.

According to a 2022 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, xylazine was present in nearly 26 percent of overdose deaths in Philadelphia, 19 percent in Maryland, and 10 percent in Connecticut.

It’s also been found in 90 percent of Philadelphia’s heroin supply. The city’s Kensington neighborhood is known as ‘ground zero’ for the city’s drug crisis.
Between 2020 and 2021, xylazine-related overdose deaths exploded by 1,127 percent in the south, going from 116 fatalities to nearly 1,500. These deaths increased by 750 percent in the west, 516 percent in the Midwest, and 103 percent in the northeast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) found monthly overdose deaths involving xylazine rose from 12 in January 2019 to 188 in June 2022. The report also found monthly fentanyl overdoses involving xylazine rose by 276 percent in just over three years

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) found monthly overdose deaths involving xylazine rose from 12 in January 2019 to 188 in June 2022. The report also found monthly fentanyl overdoses involving xylazine rose by 276 percent in just over three years

‘The presence of xylazine in illicit drug combinations and its detection in fatal overdoses may be more widespread than reported as a number of jurisdictions across the country may not include xylazine in forensic laboratory or toxicology testing,’ the DEA wrote.

In the US, xylazine is cut into opioids like fentanyl and heroin, which have relatively short durations, meaning users don’t stay high for long. However, xylazine has a longer duration, staying in the body for as long as eight hours.

Xylazine is now available online via Chinese marketplaces, so dealers no longer have to get it from Puerto Rico. This extends access, along with the fact that it’s so cheap.

A kilogram of the powder can be purchased online for as low as $1, with common prices ranging from $6 to $20.

‘At this low price, its use as an adulterant may increase the profit for illicit drug traffickers, as its psychoactive effects allows them to reduce the amount of fentanyl or heroin used in a mixture,’ the DEA said.

It’s not clear exactly how xylazine is made. However, in many cases, liquid xylazine is cooked down and made into a powder form, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. From there, it’s mixed into other substances or pressed into pills.

The DEA believes that xylazine’s mixture with other drugs happens once dealers get ahold of it.

‘Xylazine use throughout the United States may also follow the pattern seen in Puerto Rico and emerge as a drug of abuse on its own in the future, although it is unlikely to replace fentanyl or other opioids among illicit drug users,’ the DEA said.

‘It may also attract customers looking for a longer high since xylazine is described as having many of the same effects for users as opioids, but with a longer-lasting effect than fentanyl alone.’

Xylazine binds to and blocks adrenergic receptors in the brain, which release the stress hormones norepinephrine and dopamine, effectively slowing brain activity.

The result is a reduction in pain and stress, as well as a sense of euphoria similar to that of opioids.

Because xylazine is usually fixed with fentanyl or heroin, it is commonly injected – but can also be swallowed, smoked, or snorted.

At first, someone might notice a sense of euphoria and calmness as the drug suppresses the release of stress hormones in the brain.

But as time goes on, a user may become disoriented and confused. They may have shallow breathing, or their breathing could even stop.

This is because while xylazine has an effect on the brain, it also shuts down the body, forcing muscles to relax and organs to slow down to the level they would operate at while we sleep.

Physical symptoms often include a plunge in blood pressure, a slower heart rate, and depression of the lungs.

Because illicit xylazine is often mixed with other substances and in varying amounts, it’s difficult to know how much someone has taken.

Federal authorities are now racing to come up with a solution to this crisis.

Earlier this month, the White House unveiled a plan to tackle the wave of xylazine-laced drugs flooding the US. The Biden-Harris administration aims to cut tranq deaths by 15 percent by 2025.

The ‘six pillars of action’ the administration plans to take to respond to the growing epidemic is conducting more testing and data collection to roll out an ‘evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, and treatment’ plan that reduces the supply.

The plan does not yet recommend restricting xylazine.

In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a crackdown on the drug, enacting an import alert, which would allow detaining shipments of xylazine and ingredients used to make it.

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