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Gateway Recovery Center Introduces Xylazine Testing to Address Rising Community Need

Published by Mike Beltowsky

September 19th, 2023 – Gateway Recovery Center, a national leader in Medically-Monitored Withdrawal Management/Detoxification has announced the addition of Xylazine testing at all program facilities to combat the community’s need for increased care. This strategic initiative is a proactive response to the growing demand for heightened care for the ongoing complexities in addiction treatment.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the first known Xylazine-involved overdose death in Minnesota occurred in 2019. Since then, the number of Xylazine-involved deaths has increased every year. In 2019, there were four overdose deaths involving Xylazine, followed by eight in 2020 and 24 in 2021. Preliminary 2022 data shows there were 34 xylazine-involved deaths across the state.

Minnesota counties with at least one Xylazine-related death from 2019-2022 include: Anoka, Beltrami, Dakota, Hennepin, Morrison, Olmstead, Ramsey, St. Louis, Scott, Stearns, Washington, and Wright. In total, there were 70 reported xylazine-related overdose deaths in MN from 2019-2022. Toxicology testing shows that fentanyl was also present in 100% of xylazine-related deaths.

As a sedative that is distinct from opioids, Xylazine cannot be detected by a standard Urine Drug Screen (UDS). Along with limited screening, the effects of Xylazine may not reversed by Naloxone (Narcan) or may require a higher dose, new studies report. In any case of a suspected overdose, Naloxone should be administered. Individuals who inject drug mixtures containing Xylazine are at a heightened risk of overdose and developing severe wounds, including necrosis, which can ultimately result in amputation, infection, and even death.

What is Xylazine?

Xylazine, a veterinary sedative and muscle relaxant, has emerged as a new drug used among humans. It has been added to heroin, cocaine, and other illicit drugs to increase their potency, leading to a rise in overdose deaths. 

History and Current Trends:

Xylazine was first introduced in the United States in the 1960s as a veterinary sedative. It was primarily used in large animals such as horses and cows. However, in recent years, Xylazine has made its way into the hands of individuals misusing it as a street drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Xylazine has become increasingly popular in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the United States. The DEA has also reported an increase in the number of Xylazine seizures throughout the country. Individuals who purchase drugs on the street are at a higher risk of encountering Xylazine, as it is often mixed with other drugs.

Similarities and Differences from Opioids:

Xylazine and opioids share some similarities in terms of their effects on the body. They both depress the central nervous system, leading to respiratory depression, sedation, and euphoria. However, Xylazine is not an opioid and does not bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Instead, it affects the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, which are responsible for regulating blood pressure, heart rate, and other bodily functions. Like opioids, Xylazine can be highly addictive and can lead to overdose.

Xylazine Use and Abuse:

Xylazine is typically taken intravenously or intramuscularly, but it can also be snorted or smoked. It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, to increase their potency. In some cases, Xylazine is used alone. When used alone or in combination with heroin or other drugs, Xylazine can lead to an increased risk of overdose.

Adversity to Naloxone:

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. However, it may not be effective in cases of Xylazine overdose. Xylazine is known to cause respiratory depression, which can be difficult to reverse with naloxone alone. Multiple doses of Naloxone may be necessary to revive a person who has overdosed on Xylazine. In the event of a suspected overdose, administer Naloxone every time, without hesitation. 

Signs of Use and Risk Factors:

The signs of Xylazine use are similar to those of opioid use. Xylazine can cause a range of physical and medical symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, seizures, respiratory depression, and even death. Other signs may include disorientation, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Xylazine users are at high risk of overdose, especially when combined with other drugs or alcohol. Individuals can experience long-term health consequences, such as liver and kidney damage.

What To Do: 

Administer Naloxone. 

Although Xylazine may not respond directly to Naloxone or may require a higher dose, new studies report, the opioids that Xylazine may be combined with will respond to Naloxone. In the event of a suspected overdose, administer Naloxone every time, without hesitation. 

Test Your Drugs. 

Fentanyl test strips can detect fentanyl in your in substances before use. Fentanyl test strips are available online and from harm reduction organizations like the Steve Rummler HOPE Network ( prevention/fentanyl-test-strips/). Xylazine test strips are expected to become available for Minnesotans in the coming months.

Avoid Using Alone.

Xylazine’s potent sedative effects significantly heighten the risk of losing consciousness for extended periods. This makes it essential to avoid using drugs alone, especially in unsafe environments where there is a risk of abuse, robbery, or exploitation. Always have a safety plan in place and ensure you are accompanied by trusted individuals.

Attend to Wounds. 

The use of Xylazine significantly increases the likelihood of developing severe wounds, both at injection sites and elsewhere on the body. Even small wounds can quickly escalate to life-threatening conditions, including amputation, infection, or even death. Seek immediate medical attention for any wounds or track marks without delay to mitigate potential complications.

Get Help Now. 

At Gateway Recovery Center, we acknowledge the need for help now. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use involving Xylazine or any other substance(s), call us at 833.DETOX.80 to speak with a LIVE Admissions Representative, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or submit a Verification of Benefits online for immediate assistance.

View Full Press Release, here

Drug Enforcement Administration. (2021). Xylazine.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Xylazine: What You Need to Know.
Minnesota Department of Health. (2023). Xylazine Brief. (2020). Xylazine.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Prescription CNS Depressants.

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