The streets of America are being flooded by a new terrifying drug that leaves users in a zombie-like state and rots their skin from the inside, causing gaping sores.
Xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer approved in the US for cows and horses, is now flooding the illicit US drug market, with drug dealers cutting everything from cocaine to heroin with the powerful sedative.
But it is most often used to cut fentanyl, the lethally potent synthetic opioid that already kills tens of thousands of Americans every year.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), xylazine is readily available for purchase on internet sites in both liquid and powder form for as little as $6.
The drug is currently sweeping across the country and is readily available online for as little as $6
The agency say that sites are frequently showing no association to the veterinary profession or any requirements to prove a legitimate need for it.
The DEA said that prices varied between $6 and $24 from overseas suppliers.
DailyMail.com found numerous sites situated in both the US and China which would ship out the drug in powder of liquid form.
According to listings on Chinese sites, ‘crude’ quality Xylazine powder can be safely delivered to your home address from a biotech company based in Hebei province.
Other US based sites, primarily pet pharmacies, also have the drug available for prices starting at $27.
In a public safety alert, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said: ‘Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier.
‘DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States.
‘The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine.’
DailyMail.com has found listings from suppliers in China which have the drug available for as list as $10 per kilogram
According to the supplier, the quality of the drug is ‘crude’ and comes in a yellow color
The drug has now saturated the streets of Los Angeles, causing local authorities to issue warnings against the use of the drug
What is xylazine?
Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer developed in the 1960s to help vets working to treat cows, horses and sheep among other animals.
It is commonly sold under brand names including Rompun and Anased.
The drug works by stimulating animals’ muscles to relax, and also as an analgesic — relieving pain. It does this by prompting less norepinephrine and dopamine to be released into the central nervous system.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved xylazine for use in animals. There have been few studies on its effect on humans.
In the drug supply, it is often cut with fentanyl and other drugs and reduces the number of times an addict needs to get a shot.
Emma Roberts, a senior director at the National Harm Reduction Coalition in New York, previously told DailyMail.com that adding xylazine had allowed drug users to go from injecting themselves six to eight times a day on average to get a high, to three to four.
The drug is not an opioid but is often mixed with opioids — such as fentanyl — when it is used to augment it. Because of this, people who take it are more difficult to treat with the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
Los Angeles officials are trying to stop the spread of the flesh-eating drug xylazine – also known as ‘the zombie drug’ – that has taken over the city
Los Angeles county is attempting to do something to alleviate the problem by tracking the drugs presence throughout the city
The drug has spread to Los Angeles of late, with news crews capturing people hunched over and on the ground, strung out on the drug
A massive skin lesion caused by xylazine. Users often exacerbate the problem by injecting the painkiller into their festering wounds. This image was published in a journal in 2021 and shows the lesion stretching from the hand up the forearm
What happens if I take xylazine?
The Drug Enforcement Administration says xylazine takes a few minutes to kick in with effects lasting for up to four hours in animals. It is not clear how long these would last in humans.
In many cases, it leaves users ‘knocked out’ on street corners and at bus stops for hours. When these people come to, they discover the high from heroin has subsided and start looking for their next hit.
Menacingly, the drug is also causing open wounds to appear on the body — often away from the injection site.
Ms Roberts, who has worked with xylazine patients in Puerto Rico, told DailyMail.com: ‘What we are seeing is very large lesions, sometimes at the site of injection and sometimes in the body.
‘If left, they can cut right through and you can see people’s bones and tendons.
‘One man I was working with couldn’t bend his wrist properly anymore because the wound had got very deep so that you could see his tendons.’
Asked how large the wounds are, she added: ‘I saw someone whose lesions were as big as their forearm, just above the wrist up until close to the elbow.’
Nurses have described them to STAT News as appearing as though something is ‘eating away your flesh from the inside out’.
Medics are still unsure what triggers the lesions in those taking the drug. One theory gaining ground is that the drug triggers a high level of inflammation in the body, which makes it harder for wounds to heal.
It can also damage blood vessels and weaken the immune system, leaving people more open to infections.
Other effects from the drug include blurred vision, disorientation, drowsiness and staggering. It can also lead to a coma, problems breathing and high blood pressure.
Many patients are left disfigured by the drug.
In cases where the wound becomes infected and spreads to the bone, doctors may have no choice but to amputate a limb.
The drug can also cause the ‘progressive and extensive’ appearance of skin ulcers full of dead tissue.
Is xylazine more deadly than fentanyl?
The Drug Enforcement Administration warns that when combined with fentanyl or other opioids, xylazine can increase the risk of a fatal overdose.
Experts say patients die after taking xylazine because it can slow breathing as well as heart rate and lower blood pressure, compounding the effects of other drugs.
A record nearly 107,000 Americans die from overdoses every year, but estimates on how many are down to xylazine are not available because this data is not routinely collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Experts say the drug may contribute to a rise in overdose fatalities.
Dr Chelsea Shover, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told NPR: ‘If you have an opioid and a sedative, those two things are going to have stronger effects together.’
The drug prolongs the highs felt from heroin, but results in users passing out for hours at a time, while injection points ulcerate and lead to grisly wounds that spread across the body, Pictured: Homeless people on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia
How is it treated?
There is no approved antidote for xylazine overdoses in humans, with treatment instead focused on easing symptoms.
Patients who have overdosed are still given naloxone because this will treat other drugs they may also have taken like fentanyl.
But the naloxone itself will not be able to address the impact of xylazine on effects such as breathing problems and blood pressure.
This has led to concerns among experts that the growing prevalence of xylazine in the drug supply may render naloxone less effective.
Medics say that care teams should focus on supporting a patient’s breathing and ensuring their blood pressure is not too high.
Wounds linked to the drug can be treated with antibiotics.