Xylazine: what you need to know

What is xylazine? How does it impact your body? And what steps can you and those around you take to help reduce drug-related harm? Your questions answered.

What is xylazine?

You may have seen in the news that a drug called xylazine has been linked to a number of deaths across the UK.

Xylazine is a powerful and dangerous anaesthetic that relaxes the muscles and causes severe drowsiness.

How does it affect your body?

Xylazine can decrease breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, and can affect body temperature. This can lead to coma, and in some cases, can be fatal.

What are the risks?

The risks associated with xylazine increase significantly when it’s mixed with other drugs and can lead to overdose.

This is important, because xylazine has been found in heroin and other illicit drugs (bought on the internet or from a dealer) like benzodiazepines and THC vapes - so people may be mixing drugs without realising it.

Xylazine can cause severe skin damage and open wounds, regardless of how it is taken. Wounds caused by xylazine use spread and worsen very quickly. These wounds may appear on any part of the body, and it’s very difficult for them to heal on their own, so it is important to get medical attention for them as soon as possible.

How to minimise xylazine harm

If you or someone you know uses drugs, it’s important to know about the risks - sharing the guidance below could help to save a life. 📣

People who use drugs can take the following steps to minimise harm:

  1. It is best not to use alone, or if you’re in a position where there is nobody you could call for help. A buddy system - where one person takes their hit first and waits until the peak effects have worn off before the other person uses - makes it more likely that someone can help if anyone overdoses.
  2. Mixing different drugs, including with alcohol, can increase your risk of harm and is more likely to cause an overdose.
  3. If using a new batch, start with a low dose and adjust slowly, as strength can vary between batches.

What do I do if I think someone has overdosed?

If someone passes out or falls asleep and you can’t wake them up after using drugs, put them in the recovery position and get help fast by calling 999, telling emergency services what you know.

Signs of overdose include:

  • shallow breathing
  • not being able to wake someone up
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • difficulty speaking 

If you suspect someone has overdosed, it’s always best to administer naloxone. Naloxone won’t reverse the effects of Xylazine, but it reverses the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and fentanyl. Drugs bought illicitly can contain a mixture of substances, including opioids, so use naloxone if you have it. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them. 

You can get a naloxone kit and training on how to use it from your local WithYou service. 

More information about naloxone, including how to use it.

Get in touch with your local service

If you’re worried about your own drug use, or if you want advice for someone you know, please get in touch with us through your local service.

We offer free, non-judgemental advice to whoever needs it.

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