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The Rising Threat of Fentanyl Xylazine

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In recent years, the illicit drug market has witnessed a disturbing surge in the trafficking of fentanyl mixed with xylazine. This fatal duo has been wreaking havoc on communities across the globe, leading to countless overdoses and fatalities. 

The monthly percentage of deaths involving xylazine detected in IMF (illicitly manufactured fentanyl) cases showed a significant increase of 276% from January 2019 (2.9%) to June 2022 (10.9%) across 21 jurisdictions. These alarming statistics make it extremely important to understand the dangers related to the use of fentanyl xylazine.

What is Fentanyl Xylazine?

Fentanyl and xylazine combines two substances, fentanyl and xylazine, that are used illicitly or recreationally. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid pain medication known for its high potency and potential for overdose. On the other hand, xylazine is a nonopioid veterinary sedative and muscle relaxant primarily used for animals and colloquially known as “tranq”. When used together, fentanyl and xylazine can create a hazardous cocktail that can lead to fatal overdoses.

Recent Surge and Dangers of Fentanyl Xylazine

The recent surge in fentanyl xylazine use has sent shockwaves through communities in the United States. The Biden administration has issued a warning about the emergence of fentanyl mixed with xylazine, describing it as a significant drug threat in the US that demands urgent attention. This designation marks the first instance in the nation’s history where any administration recognizes a substance as an emerging threat.

The allure of this lethal combination lies in its ability to produce intense euphoria, similar to other opioids, at a fraction of the cost. However, the dangers associated with it far outweigh any perceived benefits.

One of the most significant dangers of this drug combination is its potency. Fentanyl is almost 100 times stronger than morphine; even a tiny amount can be lethal. On the other hand, xylazine intensifies the sedative effects of fentanyl, leading to a higher risk of respiratory depression, coma, and death. In combination, xylazine may extend the duration of the fentanyl high.  Moreover, due to its synthetic nature, it is often manufactured in illegal labs, where quality control is nonexistent. As a result, the drug may be unevenly mixed, leading to inconsistent potency. Users have no way of knowing the exact strength of the dose they consume, putting them at even greater risk of overdose. Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone (Narcan) does not reverse its effects. Additionally, the utilization of xylazine alongside opioids like fentanyl and heroin could impair the brain’s oxygen supply, thereby posing a significant risk. Insufficient oxygenation of the brain is considered one of the most perilous consequences of using opioid drugs, potentially resulting in fatality.

The Effects of Fentanyl Xylazine

Unfortunately, the list of adverse effects of using fentanyl and xylazine together is painful. The potential risks could endanger those who tread this dangerous combination’s path. Here is what it may look like:

  1. Respiratory depression: Both fentanyl and xylazine can cause respiratory depression, meaning they can suppress breathing. This effect can be dose-dependent and requires careful monitoring, mainly when high doses are administered or combined with other respiratory depressants.
  2. Hypotension: Xylazine can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to hypotension. When combined with fentanyl, which can also affect blood pressure, the hypotensive effect can be further enhanced.
  3. Bradycardia: Xylazine can slow down the heart rate, resulting in bradycardia. Fentanyl, while not as pronounced in this regard, can also affect heart rate. Thus, when used together, these drugs can potentially cause a further decrease in heart rate.
  4. Skin Lesions: Xylazine can cause severe damage to the user’s flesh, resulting in the decay of soft tissues and the formation of large, open wounds. It disrupts blood circulation not only in injection sites but also in other unaffected areas of the body. In some cases, surgical removal of the affected area may be necessary. Individuals who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine can also develop necrosis that may lead to amputation. 
  5. Prolonged immobility: Xylazine commonly induces prolonged immobility in users. This can harm muscle fibers, subjecting them to continuous pressure and compression. In turn, a dangerous condition known as rhabdomyolysis may emerge, where muscle fibers break down and release harmful substances into the bloodstream. If left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can result in severe disability or even death.

Combating Addiction with Encore Outpatient Services

In the face of this mounting crisis, it is more important than ever to provide those struggling with fentanyl xylazine addiction the support they need to reclaim their lives. At Encore Outpatient Services in Arlington, we are committed to guiding you or your loved ones through the treatment and recovery process. We have a range of treatment options tailored to help overcome substance use disorders. Contact us today at 703-436-8158 to schedule an appointment with our dedicated specialists and commence your journey towards recovery.

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