Gruesome effects of America's newest deadly street drug xylazine

EXCLUSIVE Horrific side effects of zombie drug flooding our streets: 32-year-old from Philly left with rotten flesh after taking fentanyl laced with horse sedative ‘tranq’

  • The 32yo man had been injecting fentanyl with xylazine daily for three years
  • He was from Philadelphia where the drug ‘tranq’ is becoming more common
  • READ MORE:  Everything you need to know about ‘tranq dope’

These are the shocking and gruesome side effects of a drug that has become the latest scourge on American streets — Xylazine.

The horse tranquilizer is flooding the US illicit drug market and increasingly being mixed with fentanyl to create an even deadlier drug cocktail that rots users’ skin from the inside and leaves them in a zombie-like state. 

Doctors have revealed the case of a 32-year-old addict from Philadelphia, which has become an epicenter for Xylazine in the past year. His body erupted in gashes and skin lesions after three years of injecting fentanyl that was mixed with Xylazine. 

The unnamed patient can be seen with cavities of rotted flesh in his leg and chest, exposing bone and tendon underneath, believed to be caused by the constricting effect that Xylazine has on blood vessels, cutting off oxygenated bloodflow to tissue. 


The drug is currently sweeping across the country and is readily available online for as little as $6

His case was revealed in the New England Journal of Medicine by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. 

Xylazine, also known as ‘tranq’, became an insidious fixture in Philadelphia’s illegal drug market, turning the city’s now-infamous Kensington neighborhood into a zombieland. Estimates from 2021 show it was present in 90 percent of Philadelphia’s lab-tested drug samples for fentanyl.

Xylazine’s true prevalence is unknown, as hospitals don’t test for it. But the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has said that in 2022, approximately 23 percent of all fentanyl powder and seven percent of fentanyl pills contained the tranquilizer.

Xylazine has been around for decades but only recently exploded in popularity with DEA leadership saying it is coming into the US from Mexico already mixed in with other illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. 

In 2015, Xylazine was involved in less than one percent of drug overdoses in 10 US cities but increased to seven percent in 2020. That year, xylazine was involved in nearly 26 percent of fatal overdoses in Philadelphia alone.

Xylazine is an extremely attractive way for drug dealers to augment the high produced from fentanyl or heroin, or both, and extend its duration. 

Doctors who treated the drug user outlined in the NEJM said his soft tissue around the upper chest became infected and died, leaving behind the appearance that the space below his neck had been roughly gouged out.    

An unnamed 32-year-old IV drug user had to undergo surgery in which the graping wounds on his chest were patched up with skin fom elsewhere on the body

The flesh-eating drug can affect someone’s skin in places separate from the injection site. This patient often injected the drug into his neck and arm veins, but he experienced open lesions on his chest and leg

The reason behind xylazine’s flesh-eating properties remains murky but doctors suspect it has to do with the drug’s constricting effects on blood vessels, which restricts oxygenated bloodflow to tissues and organs throughout the body, causing that tissue to die 

Doctors performed a procedure known as wound debridement, or the surgical removal of the diseased, dead tissue.

A CT scan of the Philadelphia man showed that in addition to having infected soft tissue, he was also suffering a bone infection in his clavicles and sternum. 

Doctors then took skin and fat tissue from elsewhere on the body and used it as a flap to cover the gaping wounds left behind on the chest.

He was kept on antibiotic treatment for at least six weeks following the surgery. The patient was also prescribed buprenorphine therapy, a highly effective treatment for opioid addiction.

At six months followup, his wounds had healed and he had been participating in an outpatient addiction program to stay drug-free.

Xylazine is not an opioid like heroin and fentanyl but has been increasingly used to augment the high produced by those drugs.

Kensington’s streets are littered with syringes, garbage and homeless encampments, with addicts dealing and using drugs in broad daylight

Anne Milgram, head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said earlier this year: ‘Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier.’ 

It was developed in the 1960s as an anesthetic for veterinary surgeries. It was investigated for potential use as a pain reliever and anesthetic for human use but trials were halted because the drug caused severe respiratory depression and low blood pressure.

Inside Philadelphia’s tranq hellscape 

Shocking footage has revealed the scale of Philadelphia’s untamed ‘tranq’ epidemic, particularly in the Kensington neighborhood, which has transformed the city’s streets into an open drug market.

Xylazine first arose in the illicit drug supply in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s, where people began injecting the drug, dubbed Anestesia de Caballo (Horse Anesthetic), and began seeing open skin ulcers even in places separate from the injection site.

But it was not until around 2018 that tranq was found on the streets of US cities primarily on the East Coast. Since then, the incredibly cheap adulterant – available online for as little as $6 – has cropped up with alarming frequency.

It is not clear why xylazine leads to catastrophic skin ulcers which if left untreated can lead to amputation. It is believed to be due to the drug’s ability to constrict blood vessels, slowing down or blocking oxygenated blood flow throughout the body.

Other effects from the drug include blurred vision, disorientation, drowsiness and staggering. It can also lead to a coma, problems breathing, and high blood pressure.

Xylazine is becoming increasingly common in the illicit supply of fentanyl, which on its own is already 50 times more potent than heroin. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported recently that the tranquilizer was found in 23 percent of the fentanyl powder it seized in 2022.

Many IV drug users unknowingly take the insidious drug. Because xylazine is not an opiate, the overdose reversal spray Narcan could be slightly less effective at saving someone’s life.

Still, people are still encouraged to administer the spray in a suspected overdose because xylazine is most commonly combined with opiates.

A record nearly 107,000 Americans died from overdoses from August 2021 to August 2022, with 66 percent of them involving a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl.

Estimates on how many fatalities are down to xylazine are not available because this data is not routinely collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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