KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In the 1960s, Xylazine was first synthesized by Bayer Pharmaceutics, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Human trials on the drug were terminated after researchers found it caused severe hypertension and central nervous system depressant effects.
More than 60 years later, the drug is returning with a new name — Tranq. According to a Knox County Forensic Center report, it's been found increasingly more often among people who die due to drug overdoses associated with fentanyl or other opioids.
"It's just such a chase," said Crystal Baines, who said she was 12 years old when she was first introduced to illegal drugs. "As addicts, if we found out that something is going to make us feel better than what that did, we're going to do it."
She said she has used crack cocaine before she began using opioids and heroin.
Tranq has been found among some people who use those drugs. In the 1970s, it was approved for veterinary use. Veterinarians commonly used it in conjunction with other anesthetics such as ketamine or barbiturates.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it is among the top ten drugs found in the state in 2023.
"You're taking an opioid that's also a respiratory depressant, and you're mixing it with an animal tranquilizer that's not meant for humans and also causes depression," said Karen Pershing, Executive Director of Metro Drug Coalition.
The combination of Xylazine and opioids like fentanyl can have devastating effects on the body. Since Xylazine also is not a traditional opioid, Naloxone treatments may not always work to reverse its effects.
"We're seeing a lot of really bad open wounds and sores, and people that have been using Xylazine," said Pershing.