Skin-Rotting Drug ‘Tranq’ Infiltrates Big Cities: ‘Zombifying Bodies’

Tranq, also known as xylazine, originated as an animal tranquilizer but has transformed into a perilous substance when combined with opioids like heroin and fentanyl. Its prevalence is escalating, particularly in major cities such as Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, leading to outbreaks of skin infections, overdoses, and fatalities. This blog delves into what tranq is, its impact on users, and strategies to curtail its proliferation.

Understanding Tranq and Its Usage

Tranq, the street alias for xylazine, is an FDA-approved veterinary sedative unsanctioned for human use. While not an opioid itself, it is commonly employed as a cutting agent for drugs like heroin and fentanyl, enhancing their potency. Its allure lies in being cheaper and more accessible than other substances, as it isn’t classified as a controlled substance for animals or humans.

Effects and Dangers of Tranq

Individuals with substance use disorders are drawn to tranq for a more potent and prolonged high from opioids. However, its use heightens the risk of overdose and death by suppressing users’ breathing and heart rate, rendering them unresponsive to naloxone, the standard overdose reversal treatment. Moreover, tranq inflicts severe and irreversible skin damage, inducing necrosis around injection sites, leading to infections, ulcers, and, in extreme cases, amputation or septic shock.

Impact on Users and Communities

Tranq affects users and communities in various dimensions:

Health: Tranq jeopardizes users’ health, contributing to skin infections, overdoses, and higher mortality rates compared to other drugs. Healthcare providers grapple with complex and costly treatments for skin wounds and a lack of effective antidotes for overdoses.

Social: Users face social and emotional challenges, enduring stigma, isolation, and low self-esteem. Tranq’s impact extends to users’ families and friends, who cope with the anguish of losing loved ones to the drug.

Economic: Tranq places a burden on public services and resources, escalating costs for emergency medical care, law enforcement, waste management, and harm reduction programs. Additionally, its contribution to pollution through discarded syringes and needles poses environmental concerns.

Preventing and Mitigating Tranq’s Harm

Addressing the tranq crisis demands coordinated efforts:

Policy: Regulate tranq as a dangerous substance, monitoring its production, distribution, and consumption. Incorporate it into routine toxicology screening and reporting, and address it within broader drug policy reforms, including decriminalization and legalization.

Education: Disseminate information on tranq’s harmful nature, risks, and effects, particularly targeting drug users and those providing support. Challenge and counter tranq through advocacy for the health and human rights of drug users, combating stigma and discrimination.

Treatment: Recognize tranq as a medical and mental health condition, ensuring users have access to appropriate care. Provide options for managing pain, withdrawal, and cravings, along with prevention and treatment for infections and overdoses. Support users in their journey toward physical, mental, and social well-being.


Tranq, a skin-rotting drug infiltrating urban centers, poses a serious and emerging threat. Collaboration among policymakers, educators, and treatment providers is imperative to regulate, recognize, and address tranq as a public health and social justice concern. The crisis demands prevention and reduction efforts to safeguard the well-being of individuals and communities alike.

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