⚫ An animal sedative is becoming a bigger threat on the streets of New Jersey

⚫ Injection of the deadly drug can lead to complex infections over time

⚫ It's nicknamed the "zombie drug"

A quickly growing threat within the New Jersey opioid crisis is a drug that's not an opioid and not meant for human use.

Known as a "zombie drug" due to its effects on users, xylazine is increasing its prevalence in the New Jersey drug supply, according to official figures.

The drug, which is used widely as an animal tranquilizer, was originally tested in humans as an anti-hypertensive agent but couldn't move ahead because of its sedating effects. But people are still getting their hands on it today — voluntarily or unknowingly, and the effects can be deadly when it's mixed with other illicit drugs, such as the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

"Xylazine tends to give fentanyl longer legs," said Matthew Salzman, an associate professor in emergency medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. "Fentanyl has rapid onset of action, but a short duration of action."

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In 2021, according to figures from the Office of Drug Monitoring and Analysis, more glassine bags containing xylazine were analyzed in 2021 (more than 240,000) than the previous six years combined.

In 2022, a third of street opioids in New Jersey were found to have a presence of xylazine, aka "tranq."

Animal Sedative Xylazine
FILE - Volunteer registered nurse Jennifer D'Angelo treats Patrick C.'s skin wounds in a screened off section of the Savage Sisters' community outreach storefront in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, May 24, 2023. Xylazine, a powerful animal sedative that's moving through the illicit drug supply is complicating the U.S. response to the opioid crisis, causing gruesome skin wounds and scrambling longstanding methods for treating addiction and reversing overdoses. Federal officials are calling for more testing and research on xylazine, the powerful animal sedative that's spreading through the nation's illicit drug supply. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Xylazine impacts

Fentanlyl adulterated with xylazine has been declared as an emerging threat by the White House. The White House released a "national response plan" in July 2023.

Xyalzine's presence in drug overdoses may be more widespread than what's been reported, according to officials.

Xylazine can depress one's central nervous system to dangerous levels. It slows blood pressure and one's breathing rate. Direct injection of xylazine has proven to cause severe damage to skin, resulting in complex, nasty infections that may require amputation.

As a non-opioid, xylazine's impacts on the user can't be reversed by naloxone. Still, individuals are encouraged to use naloxone on someone who may have overdosed on xylazine, because it likely was used in conjunction with an opioid.

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