The number of Americans killed by a flesh-rotting street drug has increased more than 15 times in the past three years, an official report suggests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of overdose deaths involving xylazine rose from 12 in January 2019 to 188 in June 2022.
But officials only looked at 20 states plus D.C., meaning the actual number related to the powerful animal tranquilizer will undoubtedly be higher.
Xylazine is flooding the US illicit drug market as an adulterant used to make drugs appear more potent than they are. It is increasingly being mixed with fentanyl to create an even deadlier drug cocktail that rots users’ skin from the inside out and leaves them in a zombie-like state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of overdose deaths involving xylazine rose from 12 in January 2019 to 188 in June 2022. The report also found that the number of fentanyl overdose deaths involving xylazine in some increased by 276 percent over three years.
The drug is currently spreading nationwide and is readily available online for as little as $6, according to Drug Enforcement Administration officials
The streets of Kensington are littered with syringes, rubbish and homeless camps, with addicts dealing and using drugs in broad daylight
The report also found that monthly overdoses of fentanyl involving xylazine had increased by 276 percent in just over three years.
The CDC report comes in response to a growing number of drug enforcement seizures at the southern border, through which much of the country’s supply of fentanyl and xylazine flows.
The highest federal public health agency relied on data from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS) — a CDC-administered database of death certificate records, medical examiner or coroner reports, and postmortem toxicology results uploaded from 47 states and DC.
However, for most of the study’s duration, it only covered 21 jurisdictions, suggesting that the true number of deaths involving xylazine is significantly underestimated.
According to the DEA, there were in 2020 808 reported drug overdose in which xylazine played a role. That figure skyrocketed to 3,089 in 2021.
The study authors said: ‘The timing and magnitude of the increase in xylazine detection among IMF (illicitly manufactured fentanyl) deaths may reflect both the increased testing frequency and the actual increased presence in the drug supply in recent years; however, detection is likely still underestimated due to inconsistent testing.”
When considering 20 states and the District of Columbia, CDC researchers found that the proportion of monthly fatal overdoses of fentanyl involving xylazine increased 276 percent from January 2019 to June 2022 (from 2.9 percent to 10. 9 percent).
The monthly number of deaths from concomitant use of fentanyl and xylazine increased from 12 in January 2019 to 188 in June 2022.
During the final 18 months of the study, from January 2021 to June 2022, the researchers expanded their scope to include data from 31 states and DC. During this specific period, xylazine was found in nine percent of fentanyl overdoses.
States in the Northeast had the highest rates of fentanyl overdoses with tranq detected post-mortem at nearly 50 percent.
Meanwhile, the states with the highest number of fentanyl deaths involving xylazine from January 2021 to June 2022 were Maryland, with 923 deaths, Connecticut with 507, and Pennsylvania with 1,285.
The drug prolongs heroin’s highs, but causes users to pass out for hours at a time, while injection points swear and lead to horrific wounds that spread across the body. Photo: Homeless on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia
Los Angeles County is trying to do something to alleviate the problem by monitoring the presence of drugs in the city
Xylazine is not used in humans, but was developed in the 1960s for veterinary use.
The drug works by stimulating the muscles of animals to relax, and also as an analgesic – it relieves pain. It does this by causing less norepinephrine and dopamine to be released in the central nervous system.
The drug is not an opioid, but is often mixed with opioids, such as fentanyl, when used to potentiate it. It is often mixed with fentanyl and other drugs and reduces the number of times an addict needs an injection.
Because of this, people who take it are more difficult to treat with the drug naloxone that reverses the overdose.
Patients who have overdosed are still given naloxone because it treats other drugs they may have been taking, such as heroin or fentanyl.
But the naloxone itself will not be able to address xylazine’s impact on effects such as breathing problems and blood pressure.
Because healthcare providers and Good Samaritans may not recognize the effects of xylazine, or may not be able to distinguish the symptoms of abuse of that drug from a drug like fentanyl, recovery activists worry that despite the wider accessibility of life-saving naloxone, the growing number unable to help people who become victims of xylazine.
In many cases, the sedative leaves users “knocked out” for hours on street corners and at bus stops. When these people come to, they find that the heroin high has worn off and they go looking for their next hit.
The drug also causes deep lesions in the skin, even in areas of the body far from injection sites. The drug causes blood vessels to constrict, cutting off the flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body, leading to soft tissue infections.
If those gaping sores are left untreated, they can result in a devastating infection that may require amputation.
Other effects of the drug include blurred vision, disorientation, drowsiness, and being jittery. It can also lead to coma, breathing problems and high blood pressure.