February 13, 2024

The Deadly Effects of Fentanyl and Xylazine

Xylazine, known as tranq, is increasingly being found as a contaminant in illegal drugs and has been linked to a rising number of overdose fatalities. This substance is most commonly mixed with fentanyl, but it has also been found in combination with cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. While there are instances of xylazine being used independently, such cases are less commonly reported – xylazine usually appears in drug combinations involving two or more substances. Read on to learn more about this lethal duo and discover how to connect with evidence-based addiction treatment near you.

Understanding Fentanyl Mixed with Xylazine

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A concerning trend emerging on the streets is the combination of fentanyl with xylazine, a mix that poses a pressing health risk. Fentanyl laced with xylazine is a potentially deadly concoction.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin and implicated in more than 75% of U.S. overdose deaths each year since it penetrated the illicit drug market. Xylazine in fentanyl increases the associated risks. Xylazine is not an opioid, but rather a sedative that’s mainly used in veterinary medicine. Mixing Xylazine and fentanyl intensifies the sedative effects, leading to an increased risk of respiratory depression, unconsciousness, and potentially fatal overdoses.

The presence of xylazine in street drugs complicates the treatment of overdoses, as it does not respond to naloxone, the medication usually indicated to reverse opioid overdoses. This makes it especially dangerous for people who believe they are consuming only opioids, which can normally be countered with naloxone in emergencies.

The emergence of fentanyl mixed with xylazine illustrates the unpredictable and evolving nature of illicit drug markets. It represents a significant public health concern that calls for increased awareness, harm reduction strategies, and tailored approaches to treatment and support for those struggling with substance use disorders.

image representing the question fentanyl laced with xylazine

Fentanyl and Xylazine Effects

The fentanyl xylazine combination brings together two potent substances, each with distinct and dangerous effects. Understanding these effects can help people avoid issues with these lethal drugs.

Fentanyl effects include:

  • Euphoria and powerful pain relief: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s much stronger than heroin or morphine. It acts quickly, triggering intense euphoria and pain relief.
  • Overdose risk: Due to its potency, even a small amount of fentanyl can cause an overdose, characterized by shallow breathing, slowed heart rate, and loss of consciousness. Fentanyl overdose can be life-threatening and should be treated as a medical emergency.
  • Dependence and withdrawal: Regular use of fentanyl can lead to physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Symptoms include pain, insomnia, diarrhea, and intense cravings.

Xylazine effects include:

  • Sedative properties: Xylazine is a sedative and muscle relaxant, primarily used in veterinary medicine. In humans, it induces drowsiness, disorientation, and a deep state of sedation.
  • Non-opioid reactions: Unlike fentanyl, xylazine is not an opioid and so does not produce the typical opioid high. It can, though, enhance the sedative effects of opioids.
  • Health risks: Xylazine use is associated with dangerous side effects like respiratory depression, bradycardia (slow heart rate), hypotension (low blood pressure), and in severe cases, coma.

Combining fentanyl xylazine means that these risks escalate. The sedative effects of xylazine can mask the signs of a fentanyl overdose, making it harder to identify and treat promptly. This combination also increases the likelihood of severe respiratory depression, a primary cause of fatality in opioid overdoses.

Fentanyl and Xylazine Overdose Impact

The combination of fentanyl and xylazine in drug overdoses is a grave public health concern due to their compounded effects and the unique challenges they present in treatment.

Compounded overdose risks include:

  • Increased potency and toxicity: Fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, when mixed with the sedative effects of xylazine, results in a significantly heightened risk of overdose. The sedative properties of xylazine can exacerbate the respiratory depression caused by fentanyl, leading to a higher likelihood of life-threatening situations.
  • Masked symptoms: Xylazine can mask or alter the typical symptoms of an opioid overdose, potentially delaying the recognition of an overdose and the administration of life-saving interventions.

Challenges in overdose treatment include:

  • Ineffectiveness of naloxone on xylazine: While naloxone is effective in reversing the effects of opioids like fentanyl, it has no impact on xylazine. This complicates the treatment of overdoses involving both substances, as the standard opioid overdose response may not be fully effective.
  • Requirement for advanced medical support: Overdoses involving both fentanyl and xylazine often require more complex medical interventions than opioid-only overdoses. This may include respiratory support and monitoring for prolonged periods due to the extended effects of xylazine.

Broader health implications include:

  • Strain on healthcare systems: The increasing prevalence of this combination leads to more emergency medical situations and a greater burden on healthcare resources, including emergency responders and hospital units.
  • Need for enhanced public health strategies: Addressing the impact of fentanyl and xylazine overdoses demands a multifaceted approach. This includes enhancing public awareness, expanding access to addiction treatment and recovery services, and increasing the availability of harm reduction tools.

Understanding the unique and serious impact of fentanyl and xylazine overdoses can help in formulating effective responses, both at the individual and community levels, to mitigate the risks associated with this dangerous combination.

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Call Addiction Hotline Today for Help with Fentanyl Addiction

Effective fentanyl detox involves medical supervision and FDA-approved medications to reduce the intensity of the withdrawal process. If you have no idea how to connect with detox centers near you, reach out to Addiction Hotline.

Hotline staff can help address any of your queries concerning drug addiction, alcoholism, and treatment.

If you are ready to engage with professional assistance, staff can help you find inpatient and outpatient treatment centers throughout the state of California. We can also connect you with peer support groups if you require additional accountability in your recovery.

For a confidential conversation about addiction treatment in Southern California, call 855-701-0479.

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Compassionate Care for Substance Abuse Treatment

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