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Leonard Frieling May 2, 2023


Today’s new word is “xylazine.” We think we’ve started to learn about fentanyl.  Now we must learn about xylazine-fentanyl mix. Xylazine, known on the street as “traq,”  has legitimate uses as an animal tranquilizer.  It can come from China, by Internet, for $6.00 to $20.00 a kilogram.  Results can include death and  amputation from rotting skin. Rotting skin is one of the diagnostic signs.  

First, we learned that fentanyl was being used to cut the heroin supply. It was easier to smuggle, since it is far stronger per gram than heroin. Thus, less is needed to be smuggled into the country. It increased the profit from “heroin,” increased the market because of how addicting it is, and is easier to smuggle. Again, this makes the product cheaper to produce. The highly addictive nature of the combination increases addictions, increases the market, and is a seller’s dream.  

 Originally thought to come from labs in China, it is now thought to come from labs in China and Mexico, or from China through Mexico into the USA. It is unknown just how much is being diverted from the legal stream of the drug. But xylazine can be deadly or devastating, resulting in amputations and rotting flesh. Also, unlike fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, and unlike heroin, our wonder cure/life saving drug, naxolone, does not work with this new xylazine danger. Legality in the USA is mixed, varying from state to state.

According to the DEA, the new drug has been detected in illegal drug samples in 48 states. While the total number of deaths is not shockingly high yet, the rate of increase in deaths is startlingly high. Various combinations of “new” drugs are appearing on the street.  Sometimes known as “benzo dope,” the mix of opioids and benzodiazepines slows breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the possibility of an overdose. Benzodiazepines were linked to 12,499 U.S. overdose deaths in 2021, up from 8,719 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s unclear how many of those fatalities involved prescription benzodiazepines, which include drugs such as Xanax and Klonopin.

Some counties which test for the “new” drug, including Miami-Dade County, has officials surprised at the jump in deaths tied to xylazine. The drug has been studied by toxicologist Rocio Potoukian. Potoukian said “one hundred percent of the cases in which xylazine was identified also involved fentanyl.” Potoukian found four overdose deaths connected to xylazine. Between 2018 and 2022, that number jumped to 169. 

“BMW,” “Tom Brady” and “Hell Cat” — every one tested positive for fentanyl and xylazine. One sample, “Monkey Pox,” also contained bromazolam, a “designer” benzodiazepine — in the same class of drugs as meclonazepam. Prescription benzodiazepines, which include drugs such as Xanax and Klonopin are being added to mix, increasing it’s lethality. I was misleading when I said there was “one new word” for today. Our vocabulary of ways to die from street drugs is increasing faster than that.

At Miami’s IDEA Exchange, Florida’s first syringe exchange service, has just received it’s first batch of xylazine test strips (about $2.00 each). The tell-tale skin ulcerations are better understood and can be treated more effectively. Combinations of fentanyl, xylazine and meclonazepam, a “designer benzo” that is not approved for medical use in the United States but can be purchased online, are being seen on the streets. They are killing people,  becoming far more common, and sadly are part of our ever-growing vocabulary of how street drugs are killing people.


Lenny Frieling


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