The vast landscape of the illicit drug trade keeps infiltrating with new drugs, some more dangerous than others. But none as visibly horrifying as Krokodil had yet entered the market. However, just as the world has barely begun to recover from the chilling tales of Krokodil, a new drug called Xylazine has emerged, bringing with it a sense of dread and disbelief.
The once obscure veterinary tranquilizer for horses and animals has quietly risen from its clinical origins to become a shocking presence on the streets of the United States. It has found a disturbing new purpose among human users, raising concerns among law enforcement agencies, medical professionals, and society at large.
This sedative, not intended for human use, is associated with rising overdose deaths. The presence of Xylazine has seen a significant increase across different regions of the United States between 2020 and 2021. One study examined data from 10 major cities in the US and revealed that Xylazine was implicated in less than 1% of drug overdose deaths in 2015. However, by 2020, its involvement had escalated to nearly 7% of overdose deaths in the same cities.
Thus, it’s important to understand the dangers of Xylazine as its use rapidly surges around the US. Is it really as perilous as Krokodil? Let’s find out.
The Desperate and Destructive Rise of Krokodil
To truly grasp the chilling nature of Xylazine, we must first revisit the urban legend of Krokodil (street-made Desomorphine). This flesh-rotting drug, also known as “the zombie drug,” wreaked havoc in the streets of Eastern Europe. Derived from codeine, Krokodil’s homemade production methods resulted in a toxic concoction that caused severe damage to the users’ bodies. Its devastating effects led to necrosis, gangrene, and a gruesome, decaying appearance.
Chilling Similarities: Xylazine and Krokodil’s Impact on Users
While Xylazine and Krokodil differ in their chemical composition and origin, their impact on users is eerily similar. Xylazine abusers experience a sedated and disoriented state, leading to a profound dissociation from reality. This detachment can render them oblivious to the horrifying consequences unfolding within their own bodies, just like the victims of Krokodil.
Moreover, Krokodil had such strong addictive properties that users engaged primarily in theft to sustain their habits and produce the drug themselves. The drug is highly corrosive, and its impurities can cause tissue necrosis, leading to gangrene and open sores on the skin. So much so that even the bones and tendons become apparent as the wound appears. In fact, Krokodil earned its terrifying moniker due to the scaly appearance of the skin around injection sites, resembling that of a crocodile.
Unfortunately, Xylazine has brought about a similar damage pattern with its introduction into illicit drug products. Much like Krokodil, it possesses the capability to cause extensive destruction to the user’s flesh. It disrupts circulation in areas where injections have been administered, as well as in other parts of the body unaffected by injections. As a result, soft tissues begin to decay, forming large, leaking exposed lesions. Treating these requires extensive medical intervention, and in cases where healing becomes difficult, cutting off the affected area may become necessary.
What’s more, Xylazine earns its association with the “zombie drug” moniker through the extreme drowsiness and disorientation it produces. Users often exhibit a vacant stare and exhibit uncoordinated movements, resembling the walking dead in popular culture. The drug can induce such grave immobilization that users may remain motionless for extended periods of time. This prolonged immobility can have dire consequences for their muscle fibers, which are subjected to continuous pressure and compression.
As a result, a dangerous condition known as rhabdomyolysis can occur, wherein the muscle fibers begin to break down, releasing toxic substances into the bloodstream. This condition can potentially cause severe disability or even death if left untreated.
Xylazine’s dissociative and anesthetic properties further contribute to its eerie similarities with Krokodil, painting a disturbing picture of the drug’s effects.
Xylazine and Fentanyl – A Lethal Duo
In the majority of instances, Xylazine is being mixed with fentanyl, a highly potent opioid known for its potential lethality even in minute quantities. This combination, commonly referred to as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” provides a prolonged and intensified high, resembling the effects of heroin. According to research, Xylazine was discovered in 31% of cases involving heroin and/or fentanyl overdose deaths in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2019.
Another investigation focused on eight syringe service programs in Maryland between 2021 and 2022. Here, Xylazine was detected in approximately 80% of drug samples that contained opioids. This suggests a significant prevalence of Xylazine within opioid-related substances circulating within the state.
These statistics are alarming as the dangers of Xylazine are exacerbated when it is combined with opioids, particularly the potent drug fentanyl. In fact, this deadly combination has caught the attention of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has declared the adulteration of fentanyl with Xylazine as an emerging threat in the ongoing opioid crisis.
What do Xylazine effects look like?
Xylazine can have various effects on the human body when misused or abused. These include:
- Respiratory depression: One of the potential side effects of Xylazine is a decrease in respiratory rate, which can lead to shallow or slowed breathing.
- Hypotension: Xylazine can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to low blood pressure levels. This can result in dizziness, lightheadedness, and potential fainting spells.
- Central nervous system depression: Xylazine acts as a depressant for the central nervous system, which can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination.
- Muscle relaxation: The drug has muscle relaxant properties that can lead to muscle weakness and a lack of coordination.
- Analgesia: Xylazine may provide pain relief to some extent, as it has mild analgesic properties.
- Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea and vomiting, after taking Xylazine.
- Possible hallucinations: In some cases, xylazine use has been associated with hallucinatory effects, although this is less common.
Why is Xylazine gaining popularity in US Drug Markets?
Similar to other substances used to adulterate drugs, Xylazine offers advantages to illicit dealers due to its affordability and accessibility, especially when compared to fentanyl. Dealers find obtaining Xylazine easier and more cost-effective than the necessary precursor chemicals for producing fentanyl. Chinese websites, for instance, offer Xylazine for sale at prices ranging from $6 to $20 per kilogram without requiring a prescription.
In contrast, the chemicals needed to manufacture fentanyl can cost $75 or more per kilogram. This significant price difference makes Xylazine a more attractive option for dealers seeking to cut or stretch their drug supplies.
Seek Help From Drug Abuse with North Jersey Recovery Center
The emergence of Xylazine on the illicit drug scene serves as a chilling reminder of the power drugs hold over people and societies. If you or your loved ones struggle with addiction, reach out to us at North Jersey Recovery Center. With compassion as our cornerstone and recovery as our mission, we stand beside you, offering a lifeline to a life reclaimed. Through our comprehensive and personalized approach to addiction treatment, we provide the tools, support, and commitment necessary to break free from the chains of addiction and live a future filled with hope, purpose, and genuine happiness. Your story matters, and we are here to help you rewrite it, one courageous step at a time.