New Tranq Drug Explodes in Cities

Tero Vesalainen /
Tero Vesalainen /

If you know much about illegal and addictive drugs, you know that new ones seem to pop up all the time, usually being a mix of one or two already proliferate ones on the black market. The case for one of the more dangerously found ones in many cities is no different.

Enter “tranq.”

Scientifically, it’s a very effective veterinary tranquilizer called xylazine. And over the past couple of years, it has exploded onto our city streets.

Now, to be sure, it’s usually not ingested on its own. Instead, many other drugs, including fentanyl, heroin, and even marijuana, are cut with it, usually to increase the length of the high.

As a former homeless drug user James Sherman of Philadelphia, explains, heroin was the drug of choice for most of Philly’s drug users. But in more recent years, heroin has become less and less available, turning the city more towards fentanyl use (another veterinary tranquilizer). But fentanyl has a “shorter half-life. It’s a much quicker high.” So dealers and producers start adding tranq, giving it a longer-lasting high.

But as Sherman and many others have noticed, the drug also gives something else: angry, open sores.

Yep, the drug user population in cities all over the US is starting to notice wounds on their bodies and not at the point of injection, usually, as would occur if an infection was taking place.

Instead, as Sherman notes, his were on his legs and hands, where he never injected himself. The neck was his location of choice. As he described, “It would scab up, and you would rip the scab off, and it would be like a crater under your skin like it’s eating your flesh.”

And “eating your flesh” is exactly how most describe the wounds. As STAT’s Andrew Joseph published in a story, the wounds look like the flesh is being eaten away “from the inside out.” Let’s just say that images of these wounds are not for the weak of stomach or heart.

And the wounds are becoming so prolific that in Philly, the believed epicenter of tranq use, wound care stations are now a standard in the city’s outreach efforts.

If you couldn’t see drug users before, you certainly can now.