Deadly ‘zombie drug’ rots your skin — and it’s hit the 2-state region

According to an addiction treatment center in Manning a dangerous new drug is on the streets.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 2:02 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - There’s a dangerous new drug that can rot your skin down to the bone, and it’s on the streets in South Carolina.

Although reports aren’t widespread yet in Georgia, it may only be a matter of time, judging by how it’s sweeping the East Coast.

It’s called the zombie drug – an animal tranquilizer often mixed with fentanyl or heroin – because of its effects on your skin, plus the dazed look in the eyes of its users, who experience hallucinations and unconsciousness.

At least six adults and possibly two adolescents in South Carolina overdosed last week on the drug that’s known by its users as Tranq and scientifically as Xylazine.

It was confirmed as the drug involved in the adult overdoses and suspected in the adolescent overdoses in Clarendon County. Luckily no one died in South Carolina, although people have in places like Cincinnati.

Clinical counselors say symptoms include severe skin, bone, and muscle infections for users who inject the drug.

Anytime people use any substance now, “it’s playing Russian roulette,” said Tammy Anderson, a clinical counselor for Clarendon Behavioral Health Services.

The drug is already especially rampant in Philadephia, where it’s reportedly in 90% of the city’s drug supply. It’s also now being found in New York.

Anderson says she first heard about Tranq from her patients just a few weeks ago.

“Unfortunately, unlike fentanyl, which can be reversed with Narcan, Tranq cannot,” said Anderson.

That’s because Xylazine is not an opioid.

Sydnee McElroy – a doctor in West Virginia, has been seeing an uptick in the drug for a while – said Narcan should be used anyway.

“It’s really important that we remove the opiates because that will help them start breathing,” McElroy said.

What makes the drug so dangerous is that even when a person experiencing an overdose begins breathing if Narcan is administered, they will not wake up until the effects of Xylazine wear off.

In addition to the rotting skin and hallucinations, users can experience dry mouth, drowsiness, hypertension, respiratory depression and even coma.

It’s addictive, with withdrawal symptoms more serious than from heroin or methadone, such as sharp chest pains and seizures, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Enforcement Administration announced it’s working to restrict imports of Xylazine to ensure it goes to those legally using it.