Cost-of-living crisis could see dealers cutting heroin with Xylazine

Coming to a street near you? Cost-of-living crisis could see dealers cutting heroin with same ‘tranq’ substance blamed for shocking Zombieland scenes in Philadelphia

  • Dangerous animal tranquiliser that caused ‘Zombieland’ in US could be found in drugs in the UK, expert says
  • Xylazine, which is also known as ‘tranq’, was originally developed as an animal tranquiliser in the 1960s
  • Now found in 90 per cent of heroin in Philadelphia, substance causes blackouts and gaping wounds 
  • Comes after dramatic pictures revealed the horror of Philadelphia’s drug epidemic in poorest district in city 

A dangerous ‘tranq’ substance responsible for Zombieland scenes in Philadelphia could be on its way to the streets of the UK as drug dealers try to cut costs. 

Ian Hamilton, an associate professor of addiction at the University of York, said the cost-of-living crisis could mean that dealers ‘bulk out’ heroin in the UK with Xylazine, a harmful substance. 

Xylazine, which is also known as ‘tranq’, was originally developed as an animal tranquiliser in the 1960s but is now offering mercenary drug dealers a chance to improve their margins.  

Shocking images from the US show addicts shooting up in broad daylight and passed out in the streets as a result of their drug usage. 

Drug users shoot up in broad daylight on the streets of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Experts have expressed serious concerns about the use of Xylazine

A man with a gaping wound on his arm sits slumped on the street. Xylazine frequently causes wounds that require amputation and can worsen withdrawal symptoms

Mr Hamilton said there wasn’t UK data on the presence of the tranquiliser in the drug market but that it was the right time for the substance to be available to addicts. 

He told MailOnline: ‘There is no UK data on this but that’s not to say that Xylazine isn’t being cut with heroin. In some ways the time is right for this to happen due to the cost of living crisis so it could be that dealers are responding to market conditions and trying to make heroin better value for money by bulking it out with Xylazine.

‘There is broader concern about sedative drugs like benzodiazepines in Scotland where there has been a significant rise in use and deaths associated with their use’.

His comments come after exclusive pictures of the Kensington neighbourhood in Philadelphia – known as ‘ground zero’ for the city’s drug epidemic – showed the devastating effect of the drugs. 

The associate professor said it was possible that the dangerous substance was already being sold on UK streets

Addicts are shooting up in broad daylight, hunched over in a stupor or passed out on the streets. Many have raw, gaping wounds in desperate need of medical attention. And there are needles, syringes and garbage littered across the sidewalks.

‘I’ve never seen human beings remain in these kinds of conditions,’ said Sarah Laurel, who runs outreach organization Savage Sisters.

Here, photographs obtained by lay bare the shocking scale of devastation in the inner city area – described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as ‘the poorest neighbourhood in America’s poorest big city’ – which is being ravaged by the newly popular and dangerous drug. 

The city’s drug use and violence has run rampant under woke District Attorney Larry Krasner whose failure to prosecute minor crimes and bail request policies have come with an uptick in crime in the city of brotherly love.

Republicans in the Pennsylvania state Senate voted for his impeachment over what they deem a dereliction of duty. The future of the progressive prosecutor remains unclear, as the party line vote was indefinitely postponed earlier this month.

Xylazine leaves users in a blackout stupor, making them vulnerable to violent attacks and rape. An associate professor of mental health and addiction at the University of York said it could be on its way to streets in the UK

The inner city district has long been a magnet for drug users seeking their next high, but the scale of problems caused by xylazine is shocking even to locals who have become accustomed to such distressing scenes

Kensington, which up until the 1950s was a bustling industrial district, is now described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as ‘the poorest neighbourhood in America’s poorest big city’

The above map shows the percentage change in drug overdose deaths by state across the US. Each has seen a rise except for Hawaii. In Oklahoma deaths did not increase or decrease compared to previous years 

The above graph shows the CDC estimates for the number of deaths triggered by drug overdoses every year across the United States. It reveals figures have now reached a record high, and are surging on the last three years

The above graph shows the cumulative annual figure for the number of drug overdose deaths reported in the US by month. It also shows that they are continuing to trend upwards 

Ms Laurel said: ‘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.’   

Unlike with opioids, there are no FDA-approved treatments specifically for xylazine withdrawal.

Philip Moore, chief medical officer for the non-profit treatment provider Gaudenzia, told the paper that weaning people off xylazine is a complicated procedure.

‘We’ll start treating for opioid withdrawal, and they should be getting better — but we’ll see chills, sweating, restlessness, anxiety, agitation,’ he said.

‘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.’

Kensington’s streets are littered with syringes, garbage and homeless encampments, with addicts dealing and using drugs in broad daylight

Drugs are openly used and passed round. One addict (in red shirt) is seen holding a syringe in his teeth

Drug users either inject xylazine or smoke it, mixed with fentanyl and other drugs

A person is pictured passed out from the drug. Xylazine is now found in 90 per cent of all Philadelphia’s heroin

He said he had prescribed clonidine and lofexidine, both medications for high blood pressure, to get patients through withdrawal, as well as sedatives such as phenobarbitol or Valium.

Moore said there needs to be better education for medical practitioners, to enable them to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

‘The challenge is educating other physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and the community,’ he said.

‘If we don’t recognize xylazine withdrawal, patients are really uncomfortable and they’ll leave treatment because they don’t feel like they’re getting better.’

The drug was first developed in 1962 as an anaesthetic for veterinary procedures, and was never cleared for human consumption. 

Initial trials were not completed because the drug led to respiratory depression and low blood pressure.

A homeless man sits on a crate in the street and begs for help in Philadelphia

Drug users are pictured sprawled in the park, waiting for their next fix. The city of Philadelphia is struggling to cope with the surge in use of xylazine

A man is seen preparing his next hit. Drug use in Kensington is open and pervasive

It began being used as a substitute for heroin in the early 2000s, and was first found on the streets of Kensington in 2006 – but since the pandemic, its use has soared.

Now more than 90 percent of the heroin now found in Philadelphia contains xylazine. A June study found the drug has spread to 36 states and D.C.

The drug, also known as ‘tranq’, causes a blackout stupor. It also leads to skin damage so severe it resembles chemical burns, plus deep festering wounds that frequently result in amputations.

Furthermore, xylazine – which is often combined with fentanyl – means that usual treatments for opioid overdoses are not effective.

In November, the FDA issued a nationwide alert about the drug for doctors, and the following month the Office of National Drug Control Policy said it was concerned about the drug’s spread.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s office, which has supported an overdose prevention site in Philadelphia, said they need to do everything possible to save lives.

‘As this crisis takes more lives and continues to evolve, we believe it is critical to use every available method to save lives and that an overdose prevention centre would add a powerful tool to our existing harm reduction strategies,’ said Sarah Peterson, a spokesman for Kenney. 

‘Overdose prevention centres save lives, prevent injuries and illness, reduce drug use and drug-related litter in public spaces, and increase connections to health services and treatment.’

‘This is the picture of addiction… This is what happens’: Mother of xylazine overdose victim describes her son’s addiction

Nora Sheehan lost her son Andrew Jugler, 29, in October, 2021, after he took a deadly concoction of xylazine and fentanyl following an eight-year battle with addiction.

She said her son’s addiction began after he started taking the oxycontin painkiller in 2010, but then gradually progressed to heroin and fentanyl.

In the wake of her loss, Sheehan, 56, shared a photo of her last moments with her son on social media to try and raise awareness about the devastating impact of the opioid crisis.

Nora Sheehan, 56, lost her son Andrew Jugler, 29, in October, 2021, after he took a deadly concoction of the Xylazine and fentanyl following an eight-year battle with addiction

 ‘Holding my dead son in my arms, this is the picture of addiction… This is what happens,’ caption Sheehan, from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

The administrative coordinator feared for her son when he joined a group living in the woods in Elkton, Maryland last summer at the height of his addiction.

Andrew Jugler, 29, died in 2021 of a xylazine overdose after an eight-year battle with addiction

She and Andrew’s two sisters, Candace Jugler, 38, and Haley Jugler, 30, tried to enroll him in a rehab program but failed. 

 She said: ‘When he moved to the woods I asked him if I could buy him a new tent or a new sleeping bag but he refused. I begged him to come home.

‘While I was trying to drive Andrew to a detox center in September he opened the door while my car was going 60 miles per hour as if to throw himself out.

‘I stopped the car and started screaming. I asked him in that moment where he wanted to be buried.’ 

The 29-year-old died on October 7 but it was two days before Ms Sheehan could identify her son’s body. 

Ms Sheehan said: ‘I couldn’t grieve until I saw him. Until then I had been holding out hope.

‘They told me to prepare for the smell in the room, because his body had been outside for a while in the hot weather.

‘That was the farthest thing from my mind. I wanted to hold him and hug him one last time.

‘Andrew was incredibly kind and caring. He was a self-made mechanic and so loved by all of us, by his sisters and his niece and his stepdad.’

Instead of a traditional funeral service, Ms Sheehan and her family held a memorial service in his name and invited Andrew’s friends, who were battling homelessness and addiction.

She added: ‘I hope that sharing this image will impact addicts but mainly I hope the rest of us stop walking around blindly.

‘I never thought heroin and fentanyl were as prevalent in my community as they are. It’s an epidemic.’ 

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