According to an analysis released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, fatal overdoses involving the animal tranquilizer Xylazine reached 3,400 in 2021, a 34-fold increase from 2018 when the number of fatal overdoses involving Xylazine was 102. The death rate tied to the drug rose from 0.03 deaths per 100,000 to 1.06 per 100,000 between 2018-2021 (Johnson, 2023).

Xylazine is a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer that is used to sedate large animals and is not approved for human use. Xylazine is often mixed with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, as it is believed to accentuate the effects of fentanyl. Xylazine is also known by the street name of “tranq.” Recently, the Office of National Drug Control Policy designated Xylazine mixed with fentanyl an “emerging threat”.

Xylazine can cause drowsiness, amnesia, slowed breathing, slowed heart rate, dangerously low blood pressure levels, as well as cause skin ulcers, abscesses, and severe wounds such as necrosis that may lead to amputation. According to reports from people who have used the drug, Xylazine can be injected, snorted, swallowed, or inhaled.

In the event of a suspected Xylazine overdose, experts are recommending that people use Naloxone (an opioid overdose reversal medication), because Xylazine is often combined with opioids. However, because Xylazine is not an opioid, Naloxone does not address the impact of Xylazine on breathing and may not be as effective for some Xylazine-related overdoses (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2022).

Although the recent analysis by the CDC shows an unprecedent increase in drug-related deaths involving Xylazine, it is possible that the number of fatal overdoses could actually be higher. Study researchers have noted that there may be potential underreporting in some U.S. jurisdictions due to the lack of monitoring in some states (Johnson, 2023).

To help stop the illicit use of Xylazine, increased awareness, education, monitoring, and reporting in all states is needed. The vigilance of federal officials in taking cautionary measures in regards to drug control of illicit substances is warranted.


DEA. (2023, April). DEA Reports Widespread Threat of Fentanyl Mixed with Xylazine |

Johnson, S. (2023, June 30). Drug Deaths Tied to “Tranq” Soar in U.S. U.S. News.,Prevention’s%20National%20Center%20for%20Health

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022, April 21). Xylazine. National Institute on Drug Abuse.