What Are Xylazine Test Strips?

Image of drug test strips

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), xylazine test strips are small strips of paper an individual can use to detect the presence of xylazine in an illicit substance. Xylazine test strips are effective for testing any drug, legal or illegal, but in this context – an informative blog for Pinnacle Treatment Centers – xylazine test strips are relevant in that they can prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fatal drug overdose.

Many people have never heard of xylazine and have no idea what xylazine is, much less why test strips for xylazine exist.

Xylazine: What You Need to Know

In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a warning letter which outlined details about the origin of xylazine, its legal uses, its illegal uses, and the negative consequences of the human uses of xylazine.

The goal of the FDA letter was to warn medical providers, emergency room personnel, and people working in drug enforcement or drug addiction treatment about the rapidly increasing presence of xylazine in the supply of illegal drugs in the United States.

Xylazine is a medication approved by the FDA as a veterinary analgesic and sedative. Xylazine is not approved by the FDA for human use for any purpose.

Over the past several years, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has detected xylazine in the following illicit drugs:

Street names for xylazine include:

  • Tranq
  • Tranq dope
  • Philly dope
  • Zombie drug

Drug traffickers add xylazine to the drugs above to increase the volume of the drug – which increase profit – and to increase the euphoric and sedative effects of the drug. However, xylazine is toxic for humans. Negative consequences of ingesting xylazine include:

  • Central nervous system depression
  • Impaired breathing
  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • Extremely slow heartbeat
  • Dangerously low body temperature
  • Elevated blood sugar levels
  • Sever, chronic wound infection
  • Death

The CDC reports that repeated use/chronic exposure to xylazine can lead to dependence, severe withdrawal symptoms including agitation and anxiety, and intravenous use of xylazine – with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other injectable drugs – can cause necrotic skin lesions.

Why Are Xylazine Test Strips Important?

The short answer is they’re important because xylazine is toxic and can lead to severe medical complications up to and including death. Risk of toxic consequences and overdose are elevated with xylazine for the following reasons:

  • Since it’s not an opioid, the overdose reversal drug Narcan cannot help someone who overdoses
  • Common drug tests and screens are not designed to detect xylazine, which means medical personnel – even if they test a person in crisis – may not know the cause of the medical crisis is xylazine
  • Since it’s not an opioid, medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) cannot mitigate withdrawal symptoms or reduce cravings for xylazine

Now let’s take a look at how to use xylazine test strips.

How to Use Xylazine Test Strips

Xylazine-Involved Overdose

Xylazine first appeared in overdose data between 2000 and 2010 in the Northeastern U.S. During the 2010, use of xylazine spread from urban areas in the Northeast to the South, then the Midwest, and then the West.

The overdose data for these regions illustrates the dangerous increase in xylazine use nationwide:

  • Northeast: 103% increase from 2020-2021
  • South: 1,127% increase from 2020-2021
  • Midwest: 516% increase from 2020-2021
  • West: 750% increase from 2020-2021

As those numbers clearly demonstrate, the xylazine problem is serious. Xylazine increases the potency of drugs of misuse – particularly opioids – which increases risk of developing addiction, i.e. substance use disorder (SUD)/opioid use disorder (OUD), which then increases risk of fatal overdose.

Xylazine: Additional Resources

To learn more about the threat posed by xylazine, please read this article on our blog:

Emerging National Security Threat: Xylazine Laced With Fentanyl Exacerbates Opioid Crisis

For an in-depth review of the emergence of xylazine as a public health threat, please read this report from the Department of Justice and the DEA:

The Growing Threat of Xylazine and its Mixture with Illicit Drugs

And finally, you can read the full text of the White House proclamation on xylazine:

Biden-⁠Harris Administration Designates Fentanyl Combined with Xylazine as an Emerging Threat to the United States

Xylazine is dangerous. When mixed with common drugs of misuse, it becomes more dangerous. It increases risk of negative physical and psychological consequences, and dramatically increases risk of fatal overdose. If you or someone you love uses opioids mixed with xylazine, or another type of drug mixed with xylazine, please encourage them to seek a full assessment for substance use disorder (SUD) and pursue evidence-based treatment provided by qualified mental health professionals.

Remind them of the truth of this statement:

The sooner a person who needs treatment for substance use disorder gets the treatment they need, the better the outcome.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.