SEATTLE — Addiction to fentanyl remains a serious problem in the United States, but another drug is creeping into the picture that could further complicate the existing opioid crisis.
Its street name is called “tranq”, which stands for sedative, but its official name as a drug is xylazine.
Dr Scott Phillips, who specializes in medical toxicology and is executive medical director at the Washington Poison Center, said: “It’s been around since the 1960s, but it’s almost never been done. used in humans for adverse effects.
Xylazine is a sedative commonly used as a sedative for large animals such as cows and horses and is not designed for humans.
“It’s a sedative. It’s a cousin of the blood pressure medication that we’ve been using for decades,” Phillips said. “That’s really the effect; it calms the brain and so people see it as a painkiller that they might enjoy taking.”
Recently, the drug has been discovered among more illicit drug users than ever before. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public safety warning about xylazine being mixed with fentanyl, an opiate.
“With something like fentanyl making it even harder for you to breathe, that can be very dangerous,” says Phillips.
Phillips added he hasn’t seen many cases in western Washington.
“But it’s moving into our region and I think everyone’s going to be impacted by this at some point, it’s just a matter of speed,” Phillips said.
This is worrisome because of the dangerous effects xylazine has on the body, he said.
“It’s quite incapacitated and its effect is to slow down the brain, it also lowers blood pressure, lowers heart rate and can make you unresponsive,” he says.
Naloxone, the drug used to reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, doesn’t work for people with dangerously high xylazine.
“It also causes some pretty serious injuries to the skin and that’s just one of its effects; it also causes the blood vessels to constrict and so the blood doesn’t circulate well to some of the injection sites,” Phillips said.
All of this makes xylazine addiction difficult to treat, and further complicates the existing opioid crisis, according to Phillips.
“It will stress some of our systems to deal with it because of the many effects it has,” Phillips said.