A new drug crisis is taking hold in Philadelphia, as the use of the animal tranquilizer Xylazine increases among drug users. Xylazine is a potent sedative that can be deadly when mixed with other drugs, such as fentanyl.
In a recent video that went viral, people in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood were seen lurching around like zombies, victims of addiction to xylazine. The video has drawn attention to the city’s growing drug crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve never seen human beings remain in these kinds of conditions,” said Sarah Laurel, who runs the local nonprofit outreach organization, Savage Sisters. “They have open, gaping wounds, they can’t walk, and they tell me, ‘If I go to the hospital, I’m going to get sick. They’re so terrified of the detox.”
The streets of Kensington are lined with garbage, and the smell of infection is pervasive. There are hundreds of unhoused individuals without access to public restrooms, showers, or housing. “You can just walk out to Kensington Avenue and smell the rotting flesh,” said Laurel. “It’s awful.”
Xylazine is a game changer for people who use substances, said Laurel. “When it first was noticed in the Philadelphia drug supply, we started to see a slower response when we were reversing overdoses, and then we began seeing wounds on individuals who are using tranq dope. And as the past four years have gone on, we saw a very large increase.
It became the predominant supply with fentanyl becoming the adulterant to it. And we are now left with individuals that have open gaping ulcers, infections, some necrotic tissue, and that leads to amputation.” According to the CDC, “An animal tranquilizer called xylazine is increasingly being found in the US illicit drug supply and linked to overdose deaths.
Xylazine—which is not approved for use in people—can be life-threatening and is especially dangerous when combined with opioids like fentanyl. Due to its impact on the opioid crisis, fentanyl mixed (adulterated) with xylazine has been declared an emerging threat by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.”
The city of Philadelphia is working to address the drug crisis, but it is a complex problem with no easy solutions. In the meantime, the people of Kensington are suffering. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are resources available to help. Please reach out for help.