Xylazine Horse Tranquilizer: The Next Zombie Drug?

By Liam Delaney 01/08/13

Xylazine is meant to help horses endure dental work or castration. An expert tells The Fix of the deadly risks of human use.

Xylazine is designed for horses. Photo via

Thanks to its proximity to the US, its numerous ports, and its unique political status, Puerto Rico is increasingly emerging as a center for drug smuggling, with up to one third of the drugs that are smuggled into the US passing through there. So the reported prevalence of the abuse of a kind of horse tranquilizer in Puerto Rico should sound alarm bells in the US, too. Xylazine is intended as a sedative for horses, reserved for use during procedures such as dental work or castration. It first appeared on the black market for human consumption in Puerto Rico's horse farming towns around 2000. Relatively little is yet known about the long-term effects of the drug on people, mainly because there have been few studies on the subject. Dr. Corretje, a veterinarian from Puerto Rico, says that Xylazine "works as a depressant of the central nervous system." The tranquilizer's immediate effects on humans are reported to include fading in and out of consciousness, a lack of coordination, and the troubling sense of the your body "drifting down to the ground"—even while you're standing on your feet. These effects apparently last for up to six hours. But one expert tells The Fix that most users don't know about one of the biggest dangers involved—that they're putting their hearts in jeopardy. "It has a very negative impact on your heart," Dr. Harris Stratyner, vice president of Caron Treatment Centers, tells us. He continues that the dangers include myocardial infarction—ie a heart attack. "Youngsters are unwittingly exposing themselves to a passive form of suicide. You have to be out of your mind to use this drug."

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