Experts Fear Xylazine Users Won’t Get Help Due to Shame


Animal tranquilizer is responsible for many drug-related deaths, and yet shame is keeping users from seeking treatment.

America’s opioid crisis, once a seemingly singular nightmare, has morphed into a gruesome hydra, each head more unpredictable and deadly than the last, even with more people willing to get help. At the forefront of this chilling evolution stands xylazine, a powerful animal tranquilizer now lacing street drugs with devastating consequences.

According to a recent investigative report, this insidious substance, also known as “tranq,” doesn’t just heighten the effects of opioids like fentanyl and cocaine; it extends their grip, knocking users out for hours and making them harder to revive. The true horror, however, lies in the wounds it leaves behind – festering, rotting sores that can lead to amputation and even death.

Experts say that fear and stigma keep many users from seeking medical help. The shame of addiction and the agonizing withdrawal, amplified by xylazine’s presence, drive them to self-treatment or reliance on harm reduction workers. Though valiant in their efforts, nurses and aid workers can only do so much. Treating these wounds as they would burns offers some temporary relief, but without addressing the underlying xylazine use, the wounds return, a cruel cycle of pain and decay.

“We all cringe a little bit when people talk about the opioid crisis or the fentanyl crisis,” Eric Dawson, vice president of clinical affairs at Millennium Health, a San Diego-based laboratory that tests urine samples for drugs, said. “There are other co-stars.”

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Recovery, when it comes, is a Herculean task. Withdrawal from xylazine and fentanyl is a crippling experience, often forcing users to abandon treatment prematurely, unable to bear the pain. Doctors are scrambling to find ways to manage withdrawal and treat the wounds, but much remains unknown.

Those who persevere face a long, arduous journey. Repeated surgeries, skin grafts, and the removal of healthy tissue become the grim reality of reclaiming their bodies. Few can endure the ordeal, but for those who do, the reward is a chance at normalcy, a testament to the human spirit’s resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.

The fight against xylazine requires a multi-pronged approach, experts say. Research is crucial to unlocking the secrets of this insidious drug and paving the way for better treatment options. According to health professionals, public awareness must also be raised to shatter the stigma and encourage users to seek help. Finally, support systems must be strengthened, providing safe havens for recovery and offering tools to combat the fear and isolation that often trap users in the cycle of addiction.

The opioid crisis has taken a twisted turn, but it is not an impossible one. By acknowledging the complexities of this evolving threat, by fueling research and compassion, and by building a network of support, healthcare professionals and addiction specialists say that we can fight back against xylazine and offer hope to those lost in its grip.

Only then can we truly tame the hydra and reclaim the lives stolen by this deadly cocktail of addiction and despair.


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