‘Zombie drug’ deadlier than fentanyl infiltrates Tri-State

The drug xylazine killed one overdose victim in Cheviot earlier this month, according to the SOAR initiative.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 10:14 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Health advocates are drawing attention to the rise of a deadlier version of fentanyl sweeping across the Tri-State.

The drug, so-called “tranq-dope” or the “zombie drug,” contains traces of the animal tranquilizer xylazine, according to the SOAR initiative, an Ohio nonprofit that alerts the public about surges of overdoses and particularly deadly batches of drugs.

“It’s such a heavy sedative,” Tonja Catron, a SOAR outreach worker, said. “It’s very dangerous, especially when you add it on top of fentanyl.”

Xylazine is not only lethal, but it can also cause necrosis, leading to loss of fingers, toes and limbs, according to the Addiction Center. It causes users to “rot from the inside out,” Jamill Taylor, a member of Philadelphia’s narcotics unit, told the Addiction Center.

Catron says it leads to open sores and large wounds that get extremely infected. “Our street outreach people are doing a lot of wound care,” she said. “We’re on the streets every weekend.”

At least one death was linked to the drug earlier month, an overdose in Cheviot, according to SOAR.

Because xylazine isn’t an opioid, it can’t be detected by fentanyl test strips or counteracted by Naloxone.

Catron, herself a recovering addict, says they’re finding xylazine in everything from heroin to prescription drugs.

The Hamilton County Crime Lab found around 2,000 instances of xylazine in tested drugs or residue in 2022, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

Catron directs those struggling with drug use as well as their loved ones to the “Never Use Alone” hotline.

“You can call there, and a volunteer will answer the phone, take your first name and your location,” she said. “They will stay on the phone with you while you use, and if you stop responding, they will send a paramedic to your house.... You’re not alone. You matter, and your life has value.”

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