In Philadelphia, ‘tranq’ is leaving drug users with horrific wounds

By Andrew Joseph: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The volunteers were handing out the staples of harm reduction: safe injection and smoking kits, condoms, and Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal medication. Down the line, they were distributing hats, socks, coats, and blankets to the people who use drugs who came to this outreach event on a recent Saturday, a bright, cold morning a few days before Thanksgiving.

Just before the final table, where two mothers who had lost children to overdoses were passing out sandwiches, was evidence of the latest evolution in the increasingly dangerous U.S. drug supply. A wound care station.

“You have any wounds you need looked at?” volunteers asked people as they came through the event, held in this city’s Kensington neighborhood.

“Do I ever,” replied one man.

The spike in wounds among people who use drugs in Philadelphia reflects the surge in the local supply of a compound called xylazine. A veterinary tranquilizer, xylazine, or “tranq,” exploded in recent years to the point that in 2021, it was found in more than 90% of heroin and fentanyl samples. With its ascendance has come a wave of wounds — sometimes called abscesses, lesions, or, in the words of one volunteer nurse here, something that looks like “it’s eating away your flesh from the inside out.” The city saw the number of emergency department visits for skin and soft tissue injuries quadruple between the beginning of 2019 and the end of 2021.

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