FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A powerful drug mixture deemed "the zombie drug" is making its way around California, raising concerns for law enforcement and addiction specialists in the Central Valley.
Xylazine, also known as "tranq," is a powerful sedative approved for veterinary use only by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it's being mixed with fentanyl and other illegal drugs.
"So, the drug in itself is not an opioid, but mixed with other opioids and then other drugs like cocaine, it enhances the effects. Therefore, they're getting the bigger kick, bigger high," said Flindt Andersen, Parents and Addicts in Need (P.A.I.N.) "And it's enormously cheap."
According to the FDA, xylazine depresses breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature to critical levels.
"Fentanyl that causes respiratory depression mixed with a veterinary medicine that causes respiratory depression," said Bob Pennal, California DOJ Retired. "That's why people stopped breathing."
Repetitive use can lead to other devastating side effects.
"You're starting to get all this vasoconstriction, which causes damage to the flesh. You start seeing infection, you start seeing rotting flesh," said Pennal. "That's where you hear of the 'zombie walk' and you hear about people having rotten flesh and everything. Well, that's just because of a lot of IV users."
If sores or dead and rotting tissue are left untreated, they can lead to amputation.
Xylazine is not an opioid, so its impacts can't be reversed by Naloxone.
However, because it is often mixed with opioids, administering the opioid antidote is still recommended.
"You may have to use more, but it's going to help you with the heroin or the opiate, but it's not gonna help you xylazine," said Pennal.
Recently, the FDA announced it is restricting the imports of xylazine.
FDA staff may detain ships with the drug to make sure it is meant for legitimate veterinary use.
Andersen said parents need to take drug risks seriously.
"The first thing they need to do is drug test their child. They cannot be afraid to drug test," said Andersen. "A lot of parents are because they don't feel like they're stepping on their kids' rights. And my response to that is would you rather have your child alive or dead? "
On its own, xylazine is a legal drug used by veterinarians, so it does not appear in standard drug tests.
Andersen said it can be detected with further lab testing.
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