March 19, 2024

Xylazine: Side Effects, Addiction Risk, & Withdrawal

image representing xylazine

Xylazine, a veterinary sedative not sanctioned for human consumption, is contributing to a rise in overdose fatalities across the United States. Xylazine is frequently encountered mixed with other substances like heroin and fentanyl. Read on to learn more about the adverse outcomes associated with this dangerous drug.

What Is Xylazine?

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Xylazine acts as an anesthetic, muscle relaxant, sedative, and pain reliever in animals due to its significant CNS depressant effects. The potent synthetic alpha2-adrenergic agonist is an analog of clonidine which was developed in the 1960s for its pain-relieving, sleep-inducing, and anesthetic properties.

Known as tranq when combined with heroin or fentanyl, xylazine is available in liquid form for injection at varying concentrations for animal treatment. This liquid can be processed into a salt or dried to a powder form. Illicit xylazine comes in white or brown powdered form, making it challenging to detect visually when blended with other powdered substances or pressed into counterfeit pills.

Xylazine can be administered through various routes, including intravenous, intramuscular, intranasal, and oral methods, although there’s no current data on its use through vaping or smoking. It acts within minutes, and its effects can last for 8 hours or more, depending on the dose, method of administration, and whether it’s combined with opioids or other drugs.

Xylazine Effects

Side effects of xylazine may include:

  • Initial high blood pressure and slow heart rate
  • Shift to low blood pressure and rapid heart rate
  • Sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Body cooling
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Coma

Xylazine side effects in those who inject the drug may include soft tissue damage. Xylazine wounds can progress to dead tissue and potentially require amputation. Beyond this, xylazine can trigger the development of physical dependence, with some people experiencing withdrawal symptoms which are more intense than those associated with heroin or methadone, including acute chest pains and seizures.

When mixed with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, xylazine amplifies the risk of deadly overdoses by further impairing respiratory functions due to their pharmacologically similar effects.

Identifying overdoses involving xylazine in medical settings can be challenging, as they closely resemble opioid overdoses but may not show up on standard drug tests. There is no antidote approved for xylazine poisoning in humans, and since xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone – the standard treatment for opioid overdose – does not counteract its effects. Nevertheless, naloxone may still be beneficial in treating the opioid components of a mixed overdose by improving respiratory function and avoiding life-threatening outcomes.

image representing the question what is xylazine

Xylazine Addiction Risk

Xylazine poses a significant risk for addiction when misused due to its sedative and pain-relieving properties. When people use xylazine, either in isolation or combined with other substances like opioids, they may develop physical dependence. Dependence involves the presentation of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.

The risk of addiction increases with the frequency and quantity of use, especially when xylazine is used in conjunction with other addictive substances.

Xylazine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from xylazine, a substance not originally intended for human use, presents with a unique set of symptoms due to its pharmacological effects. Individuals discontinuing xylazine after prolonged misuse may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Severe hypertension

Unlike more commonly understood drug withdrawal syndromes, xylazine withdrawal lacks a well-defined clinical profile, complicating the identification and management of its symptoms.

Treatment for Xylazine Withdrawal

The management of xylazine withdrawal requires a broad approach, especially when presenting simultaneously with opioid withdrawal. Healthcare providers should be prepared to address the dual nature of withdrawal symptoms in an inpatient setting, ensuring comprehensive care.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment utilizes benzodiazepines and alpha-2 adrenergic agonists like clonidine to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. These medications can help manage the anxiety, hypertension, and restlessness associated with xylazine withdrawal.

Treating opioid withdrawal symptoms concurrently involves the liberal use of medications designed for opioid use disorder or pain management to mitigate discomfort and pain. Effective management of opioid withdrawal can also prevent the exacerbation of xylazine withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of people leaving treatment prematurely.

Beyond pharmacological interventions, supportive care is integral to the treatment of xylazine withdrawal. This includes monitoring vital signs, providing hydration and nutrition, and offering psychological support to tackle the emotional and physical challenges of withdrawal.

Given the complexity and potential risks associated with xylazine and opioid withdrawal, treatment should ideally be conducted under the supervision of medical professionals experienced in addiction medicine. This ensures the safest and most effective path to recovery, minimizing the risk of complications and supporting the individual’s overall well-being. Here’s how we can help you achieve this.

An image of a woman using addiction hotline's to learn about xylazine withdrawal

Call Addiction Hotline if You Need Help for Xylazine Addiction

Xylazine addiction can set in rapidly and the abuse of this drug is associated with a range of adverse outcomes. Call Addiction Hotline today and begin your recovery right away.

We can refer you to emergency rehab centers where you can engage with treatment to ease withdrawal from xylazine and address any co-occurring mental health or substance use issues. We can also put you in touch with reputable rehabs throughout the state of California. During ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment, you can address the powerful psychological component of xylazine addiction.

Call 855-701-0479 for emergency treatment for xylazine addiction in Southern California.

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