Los Angeles streets are being terrorized by a horrifying new threat, a flesh-eating “zombie drug” called xylazine. This drug, a sedative normally used by veterinarians to anesthetize animals, is now being mixed with illicit opioids, wreaking havoc on the lives of its users and the communities they inhabit.
Xylazine, also known as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” can be converted into a powder form and combined with deadly opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. This lethal mix is then either pressed into counterfeit pills or used as sedatives. The term “zombie drug” originates from the grotesque effect it has on the skin – literally causing it to rot.
Now, addiction specialists and law enforcement officials are sounding the alarm bells over this growing epidemic. Cary Quashen, an addiction expert, says he has never seen anything like this. Xylazine’s effects are not just terrifying but life-threatening, causing sores that can lead to limb amputation and even death from overdosing.
Despite the tragic loss of life and the devastating effects of this drug, xylazine has largely flown under the radar because it is not technically an illegal substance. As a result, even when crime lab analysts detect xylazine in other illicit substances, it’s typically not flagged. But the drug’s effects are horrifically disfiguring, and as FBI Special Agent Bill Bodner notes, it’s a vasoconstrictor, reducing blood circulation when injected and potentially stopping someone from breathing.
The L.A. County Health Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration have both issued urgent warnings about xylazine. When mixed with opioids like fentanyl, it exacerbates the life-threatening effects of respiratory depression, which increases the risk of overdose and death.
L.A. County Sheriff’s officials are now taking steps to track the presence of this destructive substance in confiscated drugs. Their new pilot program is a step towards understanding the prevalence of this drug on the streets of L.A. and developing strategies to counter this deadly new threat. While it’s a small step in the right direction, it’s clear that we are fighting a massive drug war with a staggering increase in deaths. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose.