As Los Angeles prepares for a “tsunami” of overdoses from flesh-eating drug tranq, one addict told The Post of the intense highs and lows of taking the animal tranquilizer.
Shawn, who said tranq mixed with fentanyl is the new “in” drug in some circles, said he first scored the powerful painkiller from a veterinarian.
The drug, known to chemists as Xylazine, is used to sedate horses and cattle, and not intended for human use.
“I wanted to try something new and one of the effects it had on me was I started getting a gnarly rash on my backside. My skin just started to look weird, like I almost had scales,” Shawn said.
First referred to as “tranq” on the streets of Puerto Rico, the “zombie drug” has been found in most US states and has started to “saturate the street market” in New York City, according to prosecutors.
The demand for its “rollercoaster” high has crept westward to the streets of LA and San Francisco, alarming doctors and police alike.
Tranq slows a user’s heart rate down, and leads to ulcers and skin lesions.
If injected it can lead to skin and muscle degradation and rotting away, leading to its nickname as a zombie drug.
Medical professionals have warned it frequently leads to users’ limbs having to be amputated.
Shawn, who said he once had to be revived after overdosing on a mixture of heroin and fentanyl in a Starbucks bathroom, described why he found tranq alluring.
“Your heart is pounding really, really, really, really, really, really fast. But you can’t, can’t move,” added Shawn, who did not want his last name published.
“It’s like it’s just crazy. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying, ‘It’s the bomb,’ but it’s an amazing effect when it hits your bloodstream. It does something to your mind and there is no pain. Like you’re riding a rollercoaster and then there’s no pain.”
The Skid Row denizen said he’s mixed tranq with other drugs on four occasions and also injected it on its own.
“Normally, it’s like a vial and you put it in like … I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a tranquilizer gun with a big needle. And it looks like that,” Shawn said, describing his dosing process.
“When you shoot it, it hurts. But after like two or three seconds, you don’t feel any pain. You’re out.”
Shawn and others like him are part of a burgeoning epidemic of tranq abuse in the City of Angeles.
“In 2008 to 2010, that’s where it started infiltrating the northeast and now it’s in 90% of the Philadelphia drug market, or 25% of New York and the tri-state area drug market,” said Dr. Siddarth Puri, LA County Public Health Associate Medical Director of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control.
Drug dealers frequently use Xylazine to cut heroin and fentanyl, as it makes the highs of those drugs last longer.
“We had four overdoses in San Francisco in February. In LA County, we know of one death in 2021 related to tranq,” Dr. Puri added.
Puri noted his office is usually a few months behind in getting information from the coroner’s office in determining what substances are in people who died.
“We are now in the position where we need to make sure the public is educated, make sure they know risk factors and make sure they know what to do if they’re suspecting that tranq maybe in their substances. I think we’re all kind of just anticipating that it could be a tsunami.”
Congress has made moves to make Tranq a controlled substance, but the bill has yet to be approved. Meanwhile it is becoming increasingly common on the streets with a mixture of fentanyl and tranq seized by cops in 48 states, the US Drug Enforcement Administration said earlier this spring.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram has previously warned of the danger it poses, saying “Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier.”
Worryingly, Shawn sees it as becoming much more mainstream.
“It’s like when ecstasy hit. In the beginning, the only group of people who would do that were people that went to raves. And then that exploded. And then Molly, and now fentanyl. And now fentanyl mixed with other things like tranq.
“It doesn’t end,” he added.