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What Is Tranq Dope?

“Tranq dope” is a street name for opioids laced with xylazine, an animal tranquilizer. If someone is mixing xylazine with an opioid, it’s usually with heroin or fentanyl

“Tranq dope” or just “tranq” can also refer to xylazine by itself.

Why Do People Use Tranq Dope?

As a tranquilizer, xylazine produces a strong sedative effect. This effect is similar to what you get from an opioid. If you combine tranq with an opioid, it intensifies the pleasant sensation of relaxation and calm.

Some people add xylazine to their heroin or fentanyl to make the high last longer. Fentanyl produces an intense high with a short duration. Mixing it with xylazine means they don’t have to take as many repeated doses, which is more convenient and cheaper.

Popular brand of xylazine

Unlike opioids, xylazine isn’t a controlled substance, so it’s relatively easy to get. It’s often prescribed for horses or cattle. Veterinarians who give the medication don’t have any way of knowing how it’s used. 

Until recently, there was limited drug testing for xylazine in humans. Though it’s an illicit drug, xylazine doesn’t have as much risk of criminal consequences as opioid abuse.

History Of Tranq Dope

Research indicates that the recreational use of xylazine originated in Puerto Rico. Since the early 2000s, tranq dope (xylazine by itself or mixed with heroin or cocaine) has been abused in Puerto Rico and some areas of the United States.

In recent years, xylazine prevalence has increased to the extent that it’s noticeable in drug markets throughout the US. 

The drug is contributing to overdose deaths in cases of polysubstance abuse with opioids, other depressants, and stimulants. Some drug tests now look for xylazine.

Rapid Rise

In Philadelphia in 2010, xylazine was detected in less than 2 percent of fatal overdoses related to heroin or fentanyl. In 2015, it was detected in 31 percent of these cases. 

This rapid rise is concerning—it indicates that the overdose epidemic isn’t just about opioids anymore.

Tranq Dope Overdose Statistics

Xylazine-related drug overdose deaths in the US increased from 0.36 percent in 2015 to 6.7 percent in 2020. The highest rates were in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut. 

Of these deaths, 98 percent involved fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid that’s contributed to the majority of opioid overdose deaths in the last decade.

Other drugs involved in xylazine overdose deaths included cocaine (45.4 percent), benzodiazepines (28.4 percent), heroin (23.3 percent), and alcohol (19.7 percent), according to a study published in April 2022.

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that xylazine was the cause of death in more than 64 percent of fatal tranq dope overdose cases. 

Tranq Dope Overdose Risk

Tranq dope increases the risk of overdose with opioids because it has similar sedating effects. Like opioids, tranquilizers are central nervous system depressants. They slow down your breathing, heart rate, and other vital functions. 

Some have described a xylazine high as a “zombie-like state.” Others refer to it as the “zombie drug.” The risk of severe respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, and death increases when you use tranq with opioids.

Naloxone (Narcan) is an opioid overdose reversal agent that’s widely available in the United States and has saved many lives. But it doesn’t work on xylazine. If you overdose on tranq dope, naloxone will be less effective in keeping you alive until medical help arrives.

Dangers Of Tranq Dope

Xylazine isn’t approved for human use. It’s specially formulated for animals as a sedative, muscle relaxant, and analgesic (pain reliever). 

When a human takes tranq dope, they’re more likely to have skin problems than with opioids alone. People who use xylazine often develop: 

  • abscesses (swollen, pus-filled tissue)
  • necrosis (decaying skin)
  • skin lesions or ulcers (open round sores)
  • soft tissue damage

Some of these issues are common with injection drug use. But tranq dope skin problems don’t just occur at injection sites. They can also result from xylazine abuse if you snort or smoke it.

Healthcare providers aren’t always equipped to treat the skin effects of xylazine abuse, and some people are afraid to seek medical help. If left untreated, these skin issues can become severe and may require limb amputation. 

Street drug dealers or manufacturers may use xylazine as a cutting agent to stretch their drug supply. This practice can easily lead to overdose, especially if you don’t know you’re getting xylazine with your heroin or cocaine.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that xylazine has been used to put people to sleep for drug-facilitated crimes like sexual assault.

The intense sedative effect that tranq can have—particularly when mixed with opioids—increases the risk of injury to yourself and others. You’re more likely to have an accident or make poor decisions when intoxicated with tranq dope.

Tranq Dope Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one have been abusing xylazine, you’re not alone. At Recovering Champions, we offer tranq dope treatment programs that examine the roots of substance abuse and help you heal physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Speak with one of our Recovering Champions treatment specialists today to learn more.

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