Skip to main content
Community Health: Education, Prevention & Inspiration

Xylazine: Approved for Animals, not Humans

Multiple ambulances

Substances, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are all ones that the public may know can be bought and consumed illicitly. Recently, though, another substance has emerged as one of concern for public health and other officials: xylazine. Xylazine (a.k.a “tranq” or “tranq dope”) is a sedative or tranquilizer that is not an opioid and is not approved for human consumption. It has only been FDA approved for veterinary use

Xylazine has been discovered in illicit heroin, fentanyl, and benzodiazepines in order to cause a longer and stronger sedative effect.  Unfortunately, xylazine has been detected in overdose deaths in Illinois. In 2020, xylazine was present in forty-five overdose deaths and more than 228 overdose deaths in 2022. Between January 2019 and June 2022, in Cook County, there were 309 xylazine involved drug overdose deaths. These statistics illustrate that xylazine is becoming more present in Illinois and can be a danger to individuals who consume substances. 

According to the CDC, xylazine can cause symptoms, such as sedation, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, severe withdrawal symptoms, severe wounds (regardless of method of drug consumption), and even death. Some of these symptoms are very similar to those someone may experience when they are overdosing from an opioid. However, naloxone (i.e., the agent that is used to reverse overdoses caused by opioids) will not reverse the effects of xylazine because it is not an opioid. The Illinois Department of Public Health still recommends to administer naloxone if an overdose is suspected because often times, xylazine will be mixed with other opioids, such as fentanyl and heroin. Also, call 9-1-1 immediately!

It is important for all communities to know how to respond to an opioid overdose situation and administer naloxone. Public Act 096-0361 of 2010 protects non-medical professionals in Illinois from facing civil or criminal liability when they administer an opioid antidote (i.e., naloxone) in order to prevent an opioid overdose from becoming fatal. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming trained in how to prevent a fatal opioid overdose and administering naloxone, please contact Sophia Ottomanelli at or 217-244-9158. Together, we can save countless lives!