12 April 2024

Xylazine alert: what you need to know

News@2X (2)

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

But 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?

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

ℹ️ 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.

ℹ️ 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.

ℹ️ 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.

📣 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

🔴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.

🔴Mixing different drugs, including with alcohol, can increase your risk of harm and is more likely to cause an overdose.

🔴If using a new batch, start with a low dose and adjust slowly, as strength can vary between batches.

🔴If you think someone has overdosed - signs include shallow breathing, not being able to wake someone up, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty speaking - call 999. If you have it, administer naloxone. While naloxone won’t have an effect on xylazine, if what they’ve taken includes opioids (like heroin or fentanyl), this could save their life. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them.

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 or speak to trained adviser via our webchat service - we offer free, non-judgemental advice to whoever needs it

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