A potent animal tranquilizer already being used as a cutting agent by California street dealers has made its way into street drugs being sold in New York and New Jersey.
A New York Post report claims New Yorkers and New Jerseyans who habitually use illicit drugs have already been exposed to xylazine — known on the streets as "tranq."
"Every single client shows [tranq] in their urine," said case manager Chad Harlan, speaking to the Post. "If they're using drugs — they're using tranq."
Xylazine is most often mixed with fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.
Users typically experience slow breathing and a reduced heart rate. Miosis, coma, hyperglycemia and necrotic — or dead — tissue (often leading to amputations) are other known side effects of the drug.
The flesh-eating drug is also associated with psychosis and memory loss, and can also lead to "concrete burns" — sores caused by lying passed out on the sidewalk.
Post reporters interviewed users like Melanie Cox, who has a massive sore on her hand, in the very spot where she's been injecting heroin for two decades.
"You could put my hand to your lips and feel the heat emanating," said the 51-year-old mother of three during a visit to New Jersey's Asbury Park. "It was eating my hand away under the skin."
In 2021, drug overdose deaths involving xylazine were 35 times higher than in 2018, when 102 people died from tranq, according to data from the CDC. That number rose to 627 in 2019, and in 2021, reached 3,468.
In the five boroughs, tranq was at least partly responsible for about 10- to 20-percent of the city's 2,688 overdose deaths in 2021, according to the article. The Bronx saw more residents died in 2022 from tranq-related overdoses than anywhere else in New York.
In April 2023, the Biden administration declared xylazine-laced fentanyl an official emerging drug threat to the nation, the first time that label has been given.