In April, it was designated as an “emerging threat” in the United States. Xylazine, nicknamed “tranq”, is wreaking havoc across the Atlantic where it is nicknamed “zombie drug”. For what ? Quite simply because those who consume it wander like disjointed puppets in the streets of the country’s big cities… and also, and even above all, because the flesh of its consumers can become necrotic. “Unprecedented” effects, according to the American health authorities, which can be seen above in the photos taken by AFP last September in Philadelphia (United States), but also in many videos which have been circulating for some time. weeks on social networks, TikTok in the lead.
Present in 25% of drugs sold
Between 2020 and 2021, detection of xylazine by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) increased by almost 200% in the southern United States, and more than 100% in the West. “At the national level, it is present in 25% of the drugs sold. Particular attention is paid to the city of Philadelphia where the phenomenon concerns 90% of drugs seized. It worries the health authorities because of this particularly rapid proliferation, its relatively low cost and its ease of purchase”, recently explained to the women’s diary Dr. Judith Trinquart, addiction doctor. Thus, in 2022, 26% of overdose deaths observed in Philadelphia were linked to xylazine, which can be found sometimes for $6 per kilogram.
“This is the first time in the history of our nation that a substance has been designated as an emerging threat,” said Dr Rahul Gupta, director of the office in charge of the fight against drugs at the White House. This level of “emerging threat” has made it possible in particular to release funds to fight this drug and to use funds requested by President Joe Biden from the United States Congress in his 2024 budget,
Xylazine, licensed as a veterinary sedative and analgesic since 1972 by the US Drug Administration (FDA), is not approved outside of animal use. But the “tranq” has been diverted into an injectable drug since the 2000s. It now comes in the form of a clear and colorless injectable solution. On the program: slowing of breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels, infections that can lead to amputation of limbs or sedation effect. Its analgesic properties relieve pain, relax muscles and cause euphoria, hallucinations, stupor and loss of consciousness. “Xylazine is an adrenergic receptor agonist whose toxicity can cause clinical effects such as respiratory depression and coma, bradycardia, hypotension and hyperglycaemia. Ventricular arrhythmias have been reported”, further indicates ANSES in a technical sheet.
The government is required, in less than three months, to present an action plan to Congress, which will tackle several areas. Among them: more tests to detect the drug and analyzes to better understand where it comes from – especially if it is diverted in the United States or from China – in order to better fight against its growing presence on the illegal market. .
Medical research is another priority because naloxone, an antidote that can resuscitate a person in the process of overdosing on an opioid (eg fentanyl), is not effective against xylazine. According to the FDA, which notably authorizes the marketing of pharmaceutical products in the United States, between 2010 and 2015, xylazine was detected in 2% of deaths by opioid overdose and in 2019, this rate rose to 31%.