'Tranq' is a dangerous flesh 'rotting' narcotic taking the US by storm

The drug "Tranq," which has been connected to severe skin wounds and amputations, just received its first DEA public safety warning.
Christopher McFadden
"Tranq" combines some pretty potent narcotics.

Darwin Brandis/iStock 

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a public safety alert on Monday about the spread of "Tranq Dope" in at least 48 states. The agency said there had been a "sharp increase" in the trafficking of tranq, a combination of fentanyl and xylazine, an animal tranquilizer not approved for human use in the U.S. but not a federally scheduled drug.

The DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of the 50 states, and 23 percent of fentanyl powder and seven percent of fentanyl pills seized last year contained xylazine.

Xylazine is a drug that was first made to calm down horses and other large animals. It works as a sedative by depressing the central nervous system, leading to decreased heart rate and blood pressure and respiratory depression. It can also cause dizziness, disorientation, and hallucinations. When used alone, xylazine is relatively safe, but when combined with other drugs, particularly opioids like fentanyl, it can be deadly.

Users of this combination drug can get severe skin wounds, including necrosis, leading to amputation.

The first public safety alert about "Tranq" by the DEA

Following up on a report issued in October, this is the DEA's first public safety alert about "Tranq." The FDA just put out an "import alert" that lets agents seize shipments of xylazine without having to check them out in person. National legislators are also taking notice of the threat to the drug supply.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a three-pronged approach to combating "Tranq," which includes getting the FDA to track down sources of illicit xylazine, more funding for law enforcement agencies and mental health and substance abuse programs, and testing for xylazine.

"Tranq" overdoses are more difficult to reverse because xylazine is not an opioid and doesn't respond to naloxone, the medication that reverses opioid overdoses. People with suspected overdoses should still be given naloxone to deal with opioids in their system. Unlike opioids, there is no detox protocol for "Tranq" users. Most rehab facilities and hospitals do not test for xylazine and are not equipped to help people withdraw from tranq.

"Tranq dope" is an emerging threat that has become a deadly addition to the drug supply, and it is concerning that it has spread so rapidly across the U.S. Despite the efforts of government agencies and health officials to combat its trafficking, it appears that tranq continues to find its way into the hands of drug users. The lack of a detox protocol for "Tranq" users and the difficulty in reversing "Tranq" overdoses underscore the urgent need for more resources to address this problem.

The public safety alert from the DEA serves as a stark reminder of the danger that tranq poses and the importance of taking decisive action to mitigate its impact.

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