A horrific new 'zombie' drug that has devastated cities throughout the United States has been discovered in the United Kingdom and has claimed the life of a British factory worker.

Karl Warburton, 43, died in May from the effects of xylazine coupled with other narcotics such as heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine, as reported by Daily Mail.

The West Midlands man died of acute aspiration pneumonitis, a disease commonly caused by breathing pollutants. However, xylazine was recorded as a contributing factor in Warburton's death certificate. 

The technically legal animal tranquilliser "tranq" is frequently used to cut cocaine, heroin, or fentanyl. As it grows popularity in the illegal drug market, contributing to an increasing number of overdose deaths, states in the United States are increasingly attempting to restrict access to it.

The substance Enforcement Administration and health authorities have issued cautions against using the substance. While the problem is most visible in Los Angeles, Canadian officials have also warned that tranq is making its way onto their streets.

Here's everything you need to know about tranq, including why it's referred to as a flesh-eating zombie medicine and how the United States is trying to regulate it.

What is Xylazine?

Xylazine is a veterinary medication that is licenced for use as a sedative in large animals. Rompun and Anased are two of its brand names. It is sometimes referred to as a "horse tranquilliser."

It needs a veterinarian licence to buy and use, but it is rapidly appearing in Canada's illicit drug supply, frequently without the user's awareness. Other medicines are cut with xylazine since it is an inexpensive filler that can improve opioid potency.

What effect does tranq have on people?

In humans, xylazine has sedative properties. It alleviates pain, lowers brain activity, and has the potential to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate.

People who use xylazine may develop open sores anywhere on their body. These wounds can result in hospitalisation, necrosis (rotting tissue), and even amputation, which is why it is referred to as a zombie drug.

The drug's wounds look to be "eating away your flesh from the inside out," according to nurses who spoke to Stat News.

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Overdoes are also more likely with drugs like fentanyl that have been cut with xylazine. According to Health Canada, xylazine can cause central nervous system depression, respiratory depression, bradycardia, and hypotension in humans, which are comparable to opioid withdrawal symptoms.

“When combined with opioids like fentanyl, as is frequently the case, xylazine enhances the life-threatening effect of respiratory depression (slowing or stopping breathing) caused by opioids, increasing the risk of overdose and death,” according to Los Angeles public health officials, as reported by the National Post.

Unlike fentanyl, no medication or antidote is available to reverse xylazine overdose, like naloxone does for opioids. Experts still recommend that naxolone be administered in the event of a xylazine overdose if opioids are present.

“Tranq is basically zombifying people’s bodies,” 28-year-old Sam told Sky News. “Until nine months ago, I never had wounds. Now, there are holes in my legs and feet.”

The New York City Department of Health said that 2,668 individuals in New York died in 2021 as a result of xylazine overdoses, and experts worry that the medication might exacerbate the country's current drug pandemic.

How are US states responding?

Many states in the United States have implemented different measures to limit the spread of the substance. 

Pennsylvania has added xylazine to its list of banned substances in an effort to strengthen drug restrictions and empower police to prosecute individuals who break them.

“We are giving greater tools to law enforcement and others to properly regulate, control and contain these drugs, make arrests and hopefully prosecutions,” Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro said at a news conference in Philadelphia.

Ohio's Republican governor signed an executive order banning xylazine through the state's Board of Pharmacy in March, while West Virginia's Republican governor signed legislation making it a restricted substance.

The designations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia enable veterinarians to continue using the medicine to sedate animals, but they impose stricter requirements on how the drug must be handled, recorded, and kept.

“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” said Anne Milgram, DEA Administrator, who spoke to the National host. 

“DEA has seized xylazine and fentanyl mixtures in 48 of 50 States. The DEA Laboratory System is reporting that in 2022 approximately 23 per cent of fentanyl powder and seven per cent of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained xylazine,” she added. 

Does naloxone work on xylazine overdoses? 

Xylazine does not react to naloxone, but that doesn't imply the opioid-reversing medicine can't be useful if a bystander witnesses an overdose, according to specialists, because xylazine is used in combination with opioids that will react to naloxone. While xylazine has been found in fatal overdoses, it is unknown how much the sedative had a role in the person's death because it is taken in combination with heavier opioids. 

Claire Zagorski, a chemist, paramedic and translational scientist in Austin, Texas who spoke to CBS News said that administering naloxone to someone who is not experiencing an opioid overdose would not harm them, hence it is preferable for a bystander to do so if feasible. 

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