Physicians struggle to treat patients who lace opioids with animal tranquilizer

Physicians aren't sure how to treat the growing number of patients who take opioids laced with xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, because of its slim number of withdrawal treatments, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Jan. 17. 

Xylazine is not an opioid, but it has sedative properties. Its addition to drugs such as fentanyl or heroin can complicate treatment because the human use of "tranq" — its coined name — is new, meaning there's little research on it, no FDA-approved treatments and few protocols, physicians said. 

One of the key treatment questions surrounds wound care because some patients have reported wounds in areas in which they have never injected drugs and wounds that are "four fingers wide."

"We'll start treating for opioid withdrawal, and they should be getting better — but we'll see chills, sweating, restlessness, anxiety, agitation," Philip Moore, DO, chief medical officer of Gaudenzia, a nonprofit substance use disorder provider, told the Inquirer. "They're very, very unpleasant symptoms. That's what triggers us that we're dealing with a more complicated withdrawal, that there's more xylazine in the mix."

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