By Jackie Franks, MPH, CHES, CPS
What is Xylazine?
Xylazine is a veterinary drug that was developed in 1962 as a large animal sedative containing a muscle relaxant with pain-relieving properties. Xylazine was never intended for human consumption and is a non-classified drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In humans, xylazine acts on the central nervous system and may cause drowsiness, slowed breathing, decreased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and amnesia. Xylazine is present in the recreational drug supply in at least 36 states, and many individuals consuming these substances are unaware that xylazine is in them.
Overdose and Xylazine
The CDC analyzed data from 28 states and determined there has been a 64.3% increase in xylazine involved overdose deaths between 2019 and 2022. In all Xylazine-involved deaths, the individual’s toxicology report showed one or more other illicit substances as contributing to the cause of death.
There is no current treatment to reverse the effects of xylazine exposure and naloxone does not reverse the effects of the drug.
Xylazine and Pregnancy
The FDA has warned healthcare professionals about the serious risks associated with Xylazine exposure in humans. Since Xylazine is used as a veterinary drug and there are no approved uses in humans, we have little information about its effects. We do know that Xylazine has been found to cause necrotic skin ulcers in some patients.
Findings from animal studies raise serious concerns about Xylazine’s potential adverse effects on fetal development. In these studies, Xylazine has been shown to reduce blood flow to the uterus and oxygen availability, which may prevent oxygen from getting to the fetus during critical states of development of delivery.
There is no amount of Xylazine that is safe for human consumption, especially during pregnancy.
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Brommelsiek, Margaret (2023). A New Drug Epidemic Sweeping Across America- Full Report
Ayub, et al (2023). Xylazine in the Opioid Epidemic: A Systematic Review of Case Reports and Clinical Implications – Full Article