The streets of Philadelphia have become plagued with a new drug called tranq. Tranq is leaving drug users with horrendous wounds that look like it “eats’’ the flesh of users.
Tranq is being added to heroin and fentanyl; tranq was found in 92 percent of heroin and fentanyl samples. The spike in severe wounds among people who use drugs in Philadelphia is an indication of the surge in the local supply of a compound called xylazine. Xylazine is a veterinary tranquilizer used on animals. The street name has become “tranq.”
Xylazine is an anesthetic and pain reliever used by vets to treat horses and cattle. The compound also is used as a cutting agent in fentanyl and heroin because it can extend a person’s perception of a high.
“Xylazine was initially added into the drug supply because a heroin high lasts for 6-8 hours, but a fentanyl high lasts from 1-2 hours,” Jennifer Shinefeld, a field epidemiologist for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, told the Philly Voice. “The tranquilizer was being added to mimic a traditional heroin high, but also to allegedly prolong the effects.”
Xylazine first emerged as a recreational drug in Puerto Rico during the early 2000s.
The rise of tranq has exploded now in Philadelphia. In 2021, it was found in 92 percent of heroin and fentanyl samples, according to the health department.
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Users become afflicted with abscesses and lesions. The wounds look like “it’s eating away your flesh from the inside out,” as one medical worker described to Stat News.
Emergency room visits for skin and soft tissue injuries quadrupled in Philphepsia between the beginning of 2019 and the end of 2021.
“The wounds, for lack of a better term, are gnarly,” Jen Shinefeld, a field epidemiologist at the city’s health department, told STAT earlier this year.
The drug may also cause respiratory problems that make reversing opioid overdoses much more difficult.
In 2021, xylazine was detected in more than 44 percent of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Xylazine was also found in 34 percent of overdose deaths across all categories; this marked a 39 percent increase from 2020, the Philly Voice reported.
In this May 6, 2013 file photo, a drug addict prepares a needle to inject himself with heroin in front of a church in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)