ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) Xylazine, referred to on the street as TRANQ, is a veterinary drug intended to sedate large animals. Now it’s found mixed with any drug, whether it’s meth, cocaine, or the already deadly fentanyl.
TRANQ is a drug that according to Drug Enforcement Agency agent Patrick Trainor has wreaked havoc in Philadelphia over the past five years. Fentanyl is the deadliest street drug we have ever seen in our history. It is wreaking absolute havoc here and across the country, Trainor explained. The xylazine is making the fentanyl problem even worse.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Pennsylvania has seen the number of overdoses involving xylazine rise from just 2 percent in 2015 to 26 percent by 2020. This deadly additive has moved west, popping up at coroners’ offices in all of central Pennsylvania.
Fentanyl mixed with TRANQ increases the risk of a fatal overdose because xylazine knocks people out. It slows down heart rate and breathing making users look like the undead.
Another alarming side effect of xylazine is necrosis. Users often develop large open wounds at injection sites which can lead to infections such as gangrene and even amputations.
They should be scared if you know your loved one is using an opioid, there is a chance it contains xylazine and it could kill them.
Justyn Patton, BHT Supervisor at DreamLife Recovery
What makes this drug more dangerous is that there is no quick response to an overdose. Naloxone alone won’t work. Dr. Mario DeYulis is an attending physician in the emergency room at Conemaugh Health in Johnstown and has witnessed these overdoses firsthand.
He detailed, many times these are mixed overdoses. They have some opiates, they have some xylazine and other substances that they mix in these drugs. However, Narcan will reverse the opiate element, but not the xylazine element.
But how is a drug intended for animals entering the street? Agent Trainor says there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the manufacturers. The drug comes from the same place many illegal items are found: the dark web.
Agent Trainor said, “Most of the time, the dark web is and the internet is still the biggest market to get anything you want. Of course, xylazine is no exception.
Trainor explained that retailers mix it into their product because it increases potency and causes a longer-lasting high. This is something Blair County coroner Patty Ross said causes deadly consequences for users.
They take it and they die right there and they fall right on their knees under their heads, and they’re like a frog-like position and they’re dead, Ross described. Almost everyone here uses xylazine, that’s how they were found. In that position, because it kills them instantly.
For those battling addiction, that death threat is actually the drug’s biggest endorsement.
Justyn Patton is a Recovery Specialist who works as a Behavioral Health Technical Supervisor at DreamLife Recovery. She explained why this is the case by saying, You have $20 to spend on some medications today. I want as much dope as possible for 20 bucks. And that’s just how the brain works with the employee community, which makes sense. You want the most, the most for your money and that’s what they’re getting.
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Agent Trainor agreed: There is no greater approval for a drug dealer than when his product is strong enough to cause an overdose. As disturbing and difficult as it may be to understand, it is true.
Gov. Josh Shapiro stepped in in April, making xylazine a schedule three narcotic. This will allow them to better track it, prosecute anyone selling it illegally, and hopefully control the spread. Here is Governor Shapiro explaining the move:
For those with loved ones battling addiction, Patton said the best answer is treatment. He said there is money out there and resources that can help.
Patton explained that as long as someone is still alive, there is a chance. He said: Whether they died from fentanyl, car-fentanyl or xylazine, or whatever killed them, all hope is lost. Someone has lost a loved one. Someone has lost a parent. Someone has definitely lost a child. And there is nothing more you can do in that situation. If we can get them involved in the treatment, we have a chance, but we need to connect with these people.
STATEWIDE RECOVERY RESOURCES:
Toll Free PA Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357)
Addiction Treatment Locator, Assessment Platform and Standards (ATLAS) attreatmentatlas.org
DreamLife Recovery (private insurance)
RESOURCES IN THE CENTRAL PA:
Blair County Drug and Alcohol Partnerships 24/7 Hotline: (814) 381-0921
Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Partnership: (814) 536-5388
Center County Drugs and Alcohol: (814) 355-6744
Clearfield-Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission: (814) 371-9002
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