Drug meant for animals linked to more overdose deaths in humans

Posted at 5:53 AM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 07:37:14-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A drug meant for animals is being used more recently to overdoses in people.

It is called Xylazine, a sedative for veterinarians to use on large animals like horses. It is not approved for humans, however, people have been using the drug to extend the half-life of opioids like fentanyl so their high can last up to four to six hours.

This drug has been around for a while, but its use has spiked over the last four years. It has been detected in most states and in some parts of the country as much as 90% of the illicit drug supply.

The FDA recently announced it was taking action to restrict the drug and its ingredients from being imported for illegal use. Even so, health officials say they are not sure of a specific source.

The FDA said Xylazine may be mixed into drugs without people realizing it. It can cause depressed breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate to dangerous levels. Another big sign of this drug being used is open sores, according to recovery advocate Taylor Wood.

"It can create ulcers around the body, many times not related to injection site. Also, those wounds won't heal if the individual is still consuming xylazine so they remain as open wounds that can then become infected. And unfortunately, at times can require amputation," said Wood.

Xylazine does not react to the opioid-reversing medication naloxone, but experts say it can still help since the drug is usually mixed with opioids and is better to administer than not if you see an overdose.

Experts also said rescue breaths are the biggest way to help someone overdosing on this drug.