As the opioid epidemic continues to increase throughout the United States, the addition of the chemical adulterant xylazine, commonly known as tranq, is making drugs like heroin and cocaine even more lethal.
What is Xylazine (Tranq)?
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), xylazine is a non-opiate sedative, muscle relaxant, and analgesic. In the United States, it is only authorized for veterinary use as a muscle relaxant, to relieve pain, or to tranquilize (sedate) animals such as dogs, cats, horses, or cattle with appropriate dosage for the weight and size of the animal. Tranq is not approved for human use. Currently, the FDA does not have the drug on the controlled substance list. However, some states, such as New York, have passed bills making xylazine illegal to sell or use.
Tranq as a Adulterant Chemical
An adulterant chemical is one which is laced or cut into another drug. Adulterants are added to the drug to add bulk, resulting in higher profits; to enhance the effects of the drug; or to counterfeit another drug. At this time, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often found mixed in with other drugs such as heroin, is the most well-known adulterant. Now tranq is increasingly being found in illicit fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.
Tranq on the Streets
Usually sold as a clear liquid, legal xylazine can only be purchased with a veterinarian’s prescription. Unfortunately, it is easy to buy on the Internet in powder or liquid form. Many sites do not require a buyer to have a prescription or have any association with a veterinarian. It is easy to purchase and inexpensive, making it easy for drug traffickers to increase their profit.
When sold on the streets, tranq is mixed into other drugs to modify or enhance the drugs’ effects. Some people seek out street drugs containing tranq because it causes the user to experience a euphoric feeling or high, similar to opioids. Others using drugs mixed with tranq do not know what they are taking. They are unaware their illicit drugs have been laced with the animal tranquilizer.
Additional Names for Tranq
Xylazine is sold legally under the brand names, Sedazine, Rompun, Chanazine, and Anased. In addition to Tranq, Tranq Dope, and Zombie Dope, other street names for the drug include:
- Philly dope
- De Caballo
- Cardi B
- Collateral damage
When tranq is mixed with cocaine or heroin, it is called a speedball.
How do People Use Tranq
People who use tranq, knowingly or unknowingly, can get the effects of the drug through inhalation, injection, smoking, snorting, and swallowing. Tranq has been found in other substances besides fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine. Traces have been found in alcohol, benzodiazepines, methadone, prescription opioids, and gabapentin. It has been used in accidental or intentional poisoning and attempted sexual assaults.
The Effects of Tranq
A central nervous system depressant, tranq can cause drowsiness, slow breathing, reduced heart rate, and low blood pressure. The person may experience amnesia, low blood sugar, sedation, coma, or death. If a person takes tranq with another central nervous system depressant, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, they increase their risk of a fatal overdose. The effects of a tranq overdose look similar to an opioid overdose. If a person overdoses on tranq, the effects can last up to three days.
Tranq and Narcan
If an individual overdoses on opioids, administering the medication naloxone, brand name Narcan, rapidly reverses the overdose effects. It quickly restores the person’s ability to breathe normally. It works on people who overdose on illicit drugs such as fentanyl and heroin and prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. However, because tranq is not an opioid, Narcan does not have the same effect on a person who overdoses on tranq.
If someone overdoses on an opioid drug containing tranq, Narcan can help to reverse the effects of the opioids in the drug. The person may need more than one dose of Narcan because of the potency of the tranq contained in the drug mixture.
Any effects caused by the tranq to the person’s breathing and heart rate will not improve from the administration of Narcan. If they get to the hospital, they will receive supportive care, such as monitoring and tests, IV fluids, eye irrigation, electrolytes, heart medications, and breathing support.
Get the Help You Need
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, now is the time to get help. Contact Anabranch Recovery Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, and learn how our skilled professionals can help you break the cycle of addiction.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.