The Alarming Rise & Effects Of Tranq Dope
Opioids like fentanyl and heroin are often considered the most dangerous drugs on the street. In recent years, many drug dealers have started lacing opioids with tranq, a non-opioid drug that poses its own unique health risks.
“Tranq dope” (or just “tranq”) is the street name for xylazine. Xylazine is a tranquilizer used to sedate or treat pain in horses, cattle, and other animals. It’s an analog of clonidine, a medication that reduces blood pressure.
Because tranq is so powerful, it’s not approved for human use.
The Rise Of Tranq On American Streets
Drug dealers in Puerto Rico have been lacing opioids with tranq for decades. In the past few years, this practice has been adopted by American dealers, especially in Philadelphia.
Between 2010 and 2015, tranq was involved in under 2 percent of Philadelphia’s fatal opioid overdoses. By 2019, that number reached 31 percent. In addition, the drug has appeared in all 200 samples of street opioids tested by Philadelphia health officials since September 2020.
Tranq is now spreading to other areas of the country, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and North Carolina.
Why Do Drug Dealers Lace Opioids With Tranq?
Some people claim that tranq intensifies the effects of opioids. Thus, dealers may be adding it to opioids to give buyers a stronger high and secure repeat business. Since the drug is not federally scheduled, most dealers have no trouble obtaining it.
Effects Of Tranq Dope
The most commonly reported effects of tranq include:
- nausea and vomiting
- blurry vision
- smaller pupils
- high blood sugar
- impaired coordination
- slow, ineffective breathing
- slow heart rate
- low blood pressure
The drug can also cause severe wounds, overdose, and addiction.
Wounds & Amputations
Many people who use tranq report skin ulcers, abscesses, and lesions. Some of these wounds become so severe that they require amputation.
You might assume the wounds occur only on parts of the body where a person has injected tranq. However, they can appear anywhere, and they’ve even been reported by people who smoke or snort the drug.
Moreover, since tranq slows down blood flow, it makes the wounds take longer to heal. The reduced blood flow also increases a person’s risk of illnesses like sepsis (an extreme, life-threatening response to infection) and endocarditis (heart inflammation).
Although tranq-related wounds can cause severe pain, many people don’t seek treatment because they fear being judged by doctors. Also, the wounds require advanced forms of care that most medical professionals can’t deliver.
In fact, Philadelphia is considering hiring a wound care specialist and field nurse specifically to treat tranq-related wounds.
Due to the lack of proper treatment, lots of people with tranq-related wounds try to treat the pain themselves by injecting more tranq at the wound sites. Some also try to lance or drain their wounds. All of these behaviors can make the wounds significantly worse.
Like opioids, tranq can cause a fatal overdose by slowing down your breathing. However, since it’s not an opioid, it does not respond to naloxone. Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is a life-saving medication that can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
This means that if you overdose on an opioid that’s been laced with tranq, naloxone may not work as effectively. If you overdose solely on tranq, naloxone will not work at all.
Common symptoms of a tranq overdose include:
- slurred speech
- blurry vision
- slowed breathing and/or heart rate
- sudden drop in blood pressure
- loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Addiction & Dependence
Most people get exposed to tranq accidentally by taking fentanyl, heroin, or other opioids. However, they often become addicted to the tranq and start seeking it out specifically. That’s why the drug now has its own market in Philadelphia.
In most cases, tranq addiction is much more difficult to treat than opioid addiction. That’s because, since tranq entered the U.S. drug market so recently, there are no medications designed to ease tranq withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often include:
- increased heart rate
Although these symptoms are uncomfortable, they’re usually not life-threatening. Once a person withdraws from tranq, they can reduce their risk of relapse with therapy, support groups, and other recovery-focused services.
If you or someone you love struggles with drug abuse or addiction, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our inpatient and outpatient treatment centers offer medical detox, mental health counseling, and other forms of personalized, evidence-based care.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Notes from the Field: Xylazine Detection and Involvement in Drug Overdose Deaths — United States, 2019
Drug and Alcohol Dependence - Xylazine spreads across the US: A growing component of the increasingly synthetic and polysubstance overdose crisis
United States Drug Enforcement Administration - Xylazine
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