The DEA’s warning on the ‘Zombie Drug’: The reason behind the name

Earlier this month Emily’s Hope reported on a significant development in the United States’ fight against drug abuse. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has identified the combination of fentanyl and xylazine as an emerging threat to the nation. This is the first time the White House has designated an emerging threat since Congress granted them this authority in 2018. 

While xylazine is a veterinary tranquilizer that is not intended for human consumption, drug manufacturers have been mixing it with fentanyl to create a dangerous new drug nicknamed the “zombie drug.” This name is due to the drug’s horrific side effects, which include skin rotting, open sores, and a disoriented gait. The excessive drowsiness caused by the drug can give users a zombie-like appearance, and it can even cause skin to rot down to the bone.

In addition to the drug’s negative side effects, overdoses are more likely when users take both fentanyl and xylazine together. This is because xylazine is not an opioid, so the overdose-reversal drug Narcan is ineffective in treating an overdose. 

Mexican cartels have begun using xylazine as a cheap cutting agent, leading to a rise in the number of cases involving the drug. Xylazine-laced fentanyl is now present in 48 out of 50 US states, with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reporting that in 2022, around 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the agency contained xylazine.