Flesh-eating ‘zombie drug’ known as 'Tranq' detected in LA County's illegal drug supply

Xylazine, a horse tranquilizer commonly referred to on the street as "tranq" or the "Zombie drug," has been detected in limited quantities of illicit drugs seized by local law enforcement in Los Angeles County, signaling that the substance is present in the illegal drug supply, officials said Wednesday.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), xylazine is increasingly being mixed with fentanyl, making fentanyl even more dangerous.

"Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier," said Anne Milgram, administrator, in the DEA’s statement.

According to the FDA, xylazine is not approved for human consumption. It can cause dangerously low blood pressure, a decrease in breathing rate and heart rate, and damage to tissue that can lead to skin wounds, large sores and ulcers when consumed by people, authorities say.

"By mixing tranq with fentanyl they can create more of a heroin-like high or more of an oxycodone-like high; a high that lasts longer and that’s really what they’re trying to do," said Bill Bodner, the Los Angeles special agent in charge of the DEA.


The L.A. County Department of Public Health said the findings highlight that the local illicit drug supply remains dangerous and contains substances such as xylazine that can increase overdose deaths. People obtaining these drugs may not be aware that xylazine is present, according to the DPH.

Department officials previously released a health alert warning that xylazine is being mixed with illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, or pressed into counterfeit pills, including Norco, Percocet, Vicodin, or such sedatives as Xanax as a cheap additive to increase the effects of these drugs.

The department urges residents who are using illicit opioids to carry naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose, and use test strips to test for the presence of fentanyl.

In April, the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's Crime Lab initiated a three-month pilot program to track xylazine detected in controlled substances submitted to the lab. During that time, the lab analyzed 4,608 controlled substance samples and detected xylazine in 13 samples, resulting in an overall rate 0.003% of samples having xylazine. It was noted that all samples that contained xylazine also contained fentanyl.

Of the 4,608 samples tested, 320 samples were found to contain fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, and of the 320 samples, 13 had an indication of xylazine, resulting in 4% of all substances with fentanyl also having xylazine. Among the 4,608 samples, methamphetamine was the most prominent substance, being detected in nearly 3,000 samples, according to the LASD.

CNS contributed to this report.