AUGUSTA, Ga. - Officials are raising alarm over a deadly drug that has made its way to Georgia.
Xylazine, also known as tranq or the “zombie drug,” is a depressant that causes drowsiness, amnesia, and slowing breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
It can also rot your skin to the bone, making you look like a zombie.
Its inroads in the Peach State come about a month after several overdoses in South Carolina.
The drug is “next level deadly” according to Jeff Breedlove, chief of communications and policy for the Georgia Council for Recovery.
“It is hell. It’s scary as anything I’ve ever seen,” said Breedlove.
Xylazine is a veterinary tranquilizer not approved for human use. It is often paired with fentanyl without the user’s knowledge.
Because xylazine is not an opioid, typical life-saving medications like Narcan are ineffective if the user overdoses.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called xylazine the “deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced” in a press briefing Sunday.
“Every community has to be ready,” warned Breedlove. “Every family has to be ready, every business has to be ready, every organization, every group has to be ready for this drug.”
Xylazine causes disturbing effects amongst users, many of whom do not realize they have ingested the drug until they become hooked.
“It can rot your skin. It can eat away at your bones. It can cause legs to be amputated. It can even cause death,” said Schumer.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Xylazine-related deaths jumped more than 1,100% in two years. The state reports 183 xylazine-related fatalities in 2022, up from 15 in 2020.
The most xylazine-related deaths in Georgia occurred in Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb and Gwinnett counties. Spalding and Barrow counties reported the highest rates of death for their populations, with more than five deaths per 100,000 people.
In response to the national drug crisis, federal lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation to classify xylazine as a controlled substance. This would help equip law enforcement with the tools they need to get the dangerous drug off the streets.
As other parts of the U.S. are experiencing more severe problems with xylazine, experts in Georgia remain hopeful in the state’s ability to protect its communities.
“Georgia is a leader in making sure we provide support and services – that’s prevention, treatment, and recovery,” said Breedlove. “Georgia is prepared as any other state for tranq or anything else.”
People struggling with drugs and addiction can access free help and support through Georgia’s Community Counseling Services at 844-326-5400.
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