A deadly new street drug has swept America. Experts say something like this will happen again (2023)

Amy Treglia's hands were marked by xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer used as a cutting agent for heroin and fentanyl.Chris Craig/Providence Journal/USA TODAY Network μέσω Reuters hide title

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Chris Craig/Providence Journal/USA TODAY Network μέσω Reuters

A deadly new street drug has swept America. Experts say something like this will happen again (2)

Amy Treglia's hands were marked by xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer used as a cutting agent for heroin and fentanyl.

Chris Craig/Providence Journal/USA TODAY Network μέσω Reuters

(Video) New US street drug 'Tranq Dope' rotting people's skin

Public health and law enforcement agencies across the United States are working to mitigate the effects of xylazine, a deadly new threat to street drug-using Americans.

The effort is complicated and, some critics say, flawed because no one is sure who mixed the dangerous chemical into fentanyl, methamphetamine and other street drugs. It's unclear why they did this.

Dr Nabarun Dasgupta, a researcher at the University of North Carolina who tested street drugs collected across the country, said: "Why is it going national? I don't know why. It's a tricky one. question."

Xylazine or "tranq" is a horse sedative used in the veterinary industry. Dasgupta said the mystery surrounding it points to a broader public health problem: the lack of state and federal agencies' ability to identify and track new drug threats in real time.

"We only know what's on the secret streets when people either die or get arrested, but it's too late," Dasgupta said.

NPR reached out to many of the nation's top street drug experts. All agree that the administration was too late to address the proliferation of fentanyl and is now trying to catch up to xylazine.

Without a national system for quickly identifying drug threats, the majority said the U.S. could fall prey to other emerging street drugs.

"What's going on now? I don't know," said Dr. Nora Volkov, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"If you really want to be flexible and intervene based on observations, you need real-time data," he said. - Otherwise, you do it with your eyes closed.

The Biden administration has improved real-time data collection on street drugs and nonfatal overdoses, but officials acknowledge that national data collection and sharing is still in its infancy.

"It just eats your skin"

"I am deeply concerned about what this threat means for the country," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, has warned that xylazine is a major emerging health threat.

From 2020 to 2021, deaths from xylazine overdoses increased tenfold in the southern U.S., sevenfold in the western U.S., and fivefold in the Midwest, Gupta’s office said. Most drug deaths also involved fentanyl.

information:@DrGupta46Declaring that the combination of fentanyl and xylazine poses a growing threat to the United States. Read what this means and the following:https://t.co/itgdcboqN6

— ONDCP (@ONDCP)April 12, 2023

Gupta acknowledges that many towns are advancing blindly.

(Video) Zombie drug: Police, addiction services warn horrific new fentanyl mix 'Tranq' is deadly

"Xylazine testing is uneven across the U.S., making it difficult to get a national picture," he said. "Many communities don't even realize this threat exists in their own backyards."

Xylazine has been an occasional street drug over the years, but in the past 12 months it has suddenly gone viral.

Overdose deaths and serious medical complications, including horrific bodily harm from the chemical, have increased in the South and West, areas where xylazine is virtually unknown.

"It just eats away at your skin, leaves a hole and then leaves a scar," said Jessica, who lives in Newcastle, Del City. For privacy reasons and because illegal drug use is illegal, NPR has agreed not to use his last name.

A deadly new street drug has swept America. Experts say something like this will happen again (3)

U.S. public health and law enforcement agencies say xylazine poses a significant threat to addicts. They struggle to understand why the chemical is in so many street drugs.DEA hide title

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She was speaking from a trauma vehicle with a bandage around her leg because of the xylazine damage she had received. 'It's so fast it can literally eat your skin,' Jessica said.

Xylazine can also make recovery from a fentanyl overdose more difficult, and the chemical adds another layer of intense addiction and craving.

"People are getting addicted," says KC, who uses street fentanyl in Dover, Delaware. He said xylazine can make addiction more deadly and harder to quit. "It seems a little hopeless now."

Drug experts say they only have theories about who added xylazine to street drug cocktails and why.

(Video) Fentanyl: The million dollar streets strewn with bodies contorted by the effects of the drug


Biden administration calls fentanyl-xylazine cocktail a deadly national threat

"We are unable to provide further details at this time"

One possibility is that this happened locally, with drug gangs in parts of the United States suddenly adopting the deadly new ingredient as a way to cut up or dilute fentanyl powder.

"You can find a kitchen table," says Dasgupta. "You mix the powder the same way you mix baking soda, salt and granulated sugar with flour."

But some experts believe xylazine may have entered the supply chain earlier, before Mexican cartels shipped fentanyl and methamphetamine across the border.

New data from drug samples collected in Mexico support the theory, Volkov said. "Maybe these products will come pre-blended to the US," he said.

Why did cartels and drug dealers suddenly decide to make fentanyl — an already deadly street drug — even more dangerous? Again, political experts have only theory.

One possibility, Volkov said, is simple convenience. Until recently, xylazine was not regulated or controlled, making it relatively easy to obtain.

"Xylazine is a perfect filler. Basically, it's very, very cheap. Also, it extends the life of these drugs," he said.

This leads to another theory about the increased use of xylazine.

Some fentanyl addicts believe Tranq prolongs or delays the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

That could be attractive, in part because police are trying to make fentanyl harder and more expensive, reducing the supply of street fentanyl.

"It's really encouraging drug manufacturers to start putting xylazine in their supply. It's cheaper and it keeps the excitement going longer," said Maritza Perez Medina, a fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance. ) explain.

NPR reached out to the DEA, the nation's primary law enforcement agency fighting street drugs, but DEA officials declined to be interviewed and issued a brief statement.

(Video) FENTANYL POISONING: Nick Trujillo's Story

"The DEA will continue to monitor and track this growing drug threat, including all potential sources and levels of its entry into the illicit drug supply," the statement said. "We are unable to provide any further details at this time."

Why aren't we monitoring the drug threat like we are monitoring the coronavirus?

Lack of accurate, real-time data on emerging drug threat angers those on the front lines of overdose crisisIt killed 110,134 people in the U.S. last yearidentical

"Do you remember when this pandemic started happening? Did you see the map? Did you see where the... hot spots were?" said Levi Wardell, funeral director in Cheyenne, Wyoming. ) responsible for helping families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses, he said.

"Why can't it be used in this [public health crisis]?" asked.

Existing technology can track emerging drug threats by testing sewage. It would also help if law enforcement agencies were required to quickly share the street drug data they collect in a national system accessible to public health agencies, experts say.

The country's

Efforts to curb drug overdose draw on experience from sewage monitoring during pandemic

So far, these ideas have not become a reality. That has left harm reduction groups like New York's OnPoint scrambling to obtain local drug samples and gather all the information on new substances that may be circulating.

“We have a national harm reduction call every month, and we’re always talking to each other. What’s out there? What do you find here, what do you find there?” said OnPoint NYC CEO Sam Rivera.

Experts say such local networks can help, but won't be enough at a time when more synthetic street drugs, potentially deadlier than cyperazine, are expected to emerge soon.

Once the xylazine mystery is solved and public health measures are taken to make it less harmful, the next toxic street drug may have emerged, government officials acknowledge.

"We're also looking ahead to what might happen after xylazine as an add-on to fentanyl to get ahead of the next add-on in the drug pipeline," White House's Gupta said.

Madeleine BakerWyoFile, a nonprofit news organization;the paul kiefer in meDelaware Public Mediacontributed reporting to this story.


What is the new zombie drug in 2023? ›

Xylazine, also known as “tranq” or the “zombie drug,” is a horse tranquilizer. Officials said dealers are mixing it with heroin and fentanyl, making both dangerous drugs even more deadly.

What is the new zombie drug? ›

A flesh-eating “zombie drug” called xylazine has been saturating the streets of Los Angeles with severe, deadly effects when mixed with illicit opioids.

What is the trank zombie drug? ›

Also known as “tranq” or “tranq dope” on the streets, xylazine has become increasingly present in the illicit drug supply. The drug can be cooked down into a powder form and mixed with illicit opioids such as heroin and fentanyl or pressed into counterfeit pills or sedatives.

What is the new drug in USA? ›

Now a new drug is causing alarm on the US streets, literally rotting people's skin. The substance known as Xylazine, otherwise known as Tranq, is creating mayhem in major cities across the country with its devastating effects.

Do zombie viruses exist? ›

Scientifically, there's no such thing as a zombie virus. But zombie narratives are often rooted in scientific truth about how infections spread.

What is the Columbia zombie drug? ›

Devil's Breath is derived from the flower of the “borrachero” shrub, common in the South American country of Colombia. The seeds, when powdered and extracted via a chemical process, contain a chemical similar to scopolamine called “burandanga”.

What states are the zombie drugs in? ›

As of 2020, Xylazine was associated with 6.7 percent of overdose deaths, with the majority occurring in Philadelphia, Maryland, and Connecticut. Fentanyl was also found in 98 percent of all Xylazine-related fatalities. However, the combination of Xylazine with heroin can be just as lethal.

What is the new drug zombifying people in the US? ›

Xylazine is 'zombifying people's bodies' by causing skin to decay. Doctors are perplexed by a new street medication that is being sold on the streets of Philadelphia, the epicentre of America's opioid crisis.

What is the zombie effect in the US? ›

Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” “tranq dope” and “zombie drug”, is the new substance in town that has deadly effects. The drug has sedative-like symptoms – extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression characterize the use of the substance leading to the videos of people unable to stand.

What drugs remove zombie cells? ›

Senolytic drugs are drugs that kill senescent cells while leaving normal cells untouched. They have shown promise in animals and humans for various conditions but human trials are still in their early stages. These trials suffered a fairly significant setback this week.

What is zombie drug in Texas? ›

HOUSTON — The "zombie drug" is called xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer, and it has been linked to a growing number of overdose deaths in the country. Often combined with other drugs like fentanyl and Xanax, the tranquilizer is not an opioid with means its effects can't be reversed with Narcan.

What is the zombie skin disease? ›

Colloquially called a 'zombie patch', granular parakeratosis is a benign skin disease involving keratinization. It is characterized by hyperkeratotic, hyperpigmented, erythematous papules, which may coalesce into plaques.

What is the new drug to extend life? ›

Researchers have found that the drug rilmenidine can extend lifespan and slow aging.

What is the fastest-growing drug in the United States? ›

The fastest-growing drug problem in the United States isn't cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. It is prescription drugs, and it is profoundly affecting the lives of teenagers.

What is the fastest-growing drug problem in America today? ›

Prescription drug abuse is the Nation's fastest-growing drug problem and has been classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Is The Last of Us possible? ›

Although “The Last of Us” may be more fiction than fact, Roberts says there's a sentiment of gratitude among infectious disease specialists for the rise in awareness of fungal infections. “The show might not be realistic, but pathogens like Candida auris are likely going to get more press now,” he says.

Could the last of us actually happen? ›

Can 'The Last of Us' outbreak happen in real life? Molecular biologist says no | CityNews Kitchener.

Can fungi control humans? ›

And while the prospect of fungus being able to manipulate human behavior isn't impossible, it's not likely, according to Dentinger. The traits the fungus have that allow them to attack an insect host are very specific to that insect — and it's not easily transferable to another species.

What does devils breath do to you? ›

Scopolamine is also available in powdered form, called Devil's Breath. This form is often used recreationally at parties, bars, or clubs for its hallucinogenic effects. In high doses, it is a potent central nervous system (CNS) depressant that can render a person unconscious for 24 hours or more.

What is the zombie drug in the Bronx? ›

Xylazine is a central nervous system depressant that slows a person's breathing and heart rate and lowers blood pressure. It's a powerful tranquilizer approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in animals like horses as a veterinarian-prescribed analgesic.

What is the drug doom? ›

Doom 10mg/20mg Tablet is a prescription medicine used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (Acid reflux) and peptic ulcer disease by relieving the symptoms such as heartburn, stomach pain, or irritation. It also neutralizes the acid in the stomach and promotes easy passage of gas to reduce stomach discomfort.

What is the closest virus to zombie? ›

As already emphasized, conventional Zombies, as depicted in comics and movies (23), share some similar behaviours with patients infected by Rabies virus. Both undergo a variable degree of consciousness deterioration, which tends to be almost identical in the last stages of rabies disease.

Is there going to be zombies in 2023? ›

After corroborating with trusted and vetted sources, Insider Gaming believes that round-based zombies are almost certainly coming as a major reboot in 2024 and not in Call of Duty 2023. It's understood that the current plan is to introduce zombies as a different experience between now and Treyarch's next title.

What is the new drug zombifying people? ›

Xylazine is 'zombifying people's bodies' by causing skin to decay. Doctors are perplexed by a new street medication that is being sold on the streets of Philadelphia, the epicentre of America's opioid crisis.

Does 2023 have zombies? ›

According to Insider Gaming, Call of Duty 2023 is expected to finally have a Zombies mode again, although it is uncertain how it will be structured.


1. Gravitas: 'Zombie drug' haunts America
2. The flesh-eating drug taking over America | 7NEWS
(7NEWS Australia)
3. Philadelphia's zombie drug 'tranq' already in NYC
(PIX11 News)
4. America's Fentanyl Problem (Narcotics Documentary) Real Stories
(Real Stories)
5. Chasing Heroin (full documentary) | FRONTLINE
(FRONTLINE PBS | Official)
6. The TRUTH About “Tranq” Zombies… Is Xylazine The Scariest Drug Yet? Surgeon Explains Tranq Dope
(Dr. Chris Raynor | Not Your Everyday Ortho)


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