A Philadelphia woman is speaking out about the horrors of the “flesh-rotting” animal tranquilizer xylazine, saying she suffered blood clots, sepsis and sores so painful that she tried to cut off her own skin.
The medication — known on the street as “tranq,” “tranq dope” and “zombie drug” — is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for veterinary use, but is not safe for human consumption as it causes rotting wounds and respiratory problems.
Often cut with heroin, dealers are mixing it with fentanyl as an inexpensive way to make highs last longer amid the “disgraceful” opioid epidemic killing 300 Americans a day.
“Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier,” Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram said in a “widespread threat” alert in March as use of the drug spread rapidly across the US.
Tracey McCann, 39, is one of thousands of Americans who have become inadvertently hooked on xylazine in recent years.
“I would wake up crying in pain,” McCann said of her horrific battle with the drug, which left her skin blackened.
“The only way to make it go away was to cut the flesh off. One time I accidentally cut a tendon in my arm, and now I can’t move my fingers a certain way.”
In 2009, McCann — a happy young woman managing a Domino’s Pizza franchise — was involved in a serious car crash that left her in a coma for a month.
When she awoke, she struggled with chronic pain. Doctors prescribed super-strong opioids.
The car crash survivor quickly became hooked on the pills and later turned to street drugs when her physician eventually stopped renewing her prescriptions.
“I saw no other way to cope,” McCann confessed, saying she started using heroin and fentanyl in a bid to numb her ongoing pain.
McCann used both drugs for years, but said things drastically took a turn in 2020.
“Around COVID the effects of fentanyl started changing,” she recalled. “When I took it, it was knocking me straight out for four or five hours. Me and everyone around me using just thought it was strong fentanyl, [but] drug dealers were sneaking in xylazine.”
McCann didn’t realize the animal tranquilizer was being cut into the drugs until she started developing bruises and sores on her body several months later.
“I started getting these wounds,” she explained. “I would get these bruises at night, and my skin would turn black. I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t show anyone, I just covered it up.”
McCann finally clocked that she was injecting the “zombie drug” after speaking with another woman who had also become hooked on xylazine-laced fentanyl.
“She had same bruises and blackened skin as me,” she noted, saying the woman told her the side effects were due in part to a meat tenderizer cut with the drugs.
A short time later, McCann started suffering blood clots and ended up in the hospital.
“I did a blood test and was septic and needed an immediate blood transfusion,” she dramatically declared. “Lots of people I knew had gone septic from the drug too. I could tell the doctor and nurse were judging me like I was a worthless junkie. I ripped the IV drip out and left the hospital.”
McCann stunningly resorted to “self-surgery,” cutting off her own dead skin.
By this time, McCann was homeless and living on the streets of Philadelphia — the epicenter of America’s growing xylazine crisis.
At the beginning of September 2022, McCann hit rock bottom.
“I was just living to use and using to live,” she emotionally admitted, saying she weighed just 85 pounds.
“I thought I either need to do a lethal shot of tranq to end it all or get out of Kensington [in Philadelphia],” McCann stated.
In a bid to save her own life, she was able to seek treatment at a state-funded facility in St. Louis, Missouri.
On Sept. 4, she entered the rehab, where she spent 45 days withdrawing from xylazine — a harrowing ordeal she says was “like nothing else” she had ever experienced.
“I had seizures from it and double vision, which wouldn’t go away,” she said. “The symptoms lasted four months into being clean. I wanted to die they were so bad.”
After the mental and physical anguish she experienced during withdrawal, McCann is celebrating being sober for more than nine months.
The drug has been showing up in other major cities at an alarmingly high rate as well. Xylazine is now in 25% of opioid samples tested in the Big Apple, the New York Times reported in January.
The animal tranquilizer has been detected in all 50 states, and there are fears overdose deaths could drastically increase across the nation.
“The government needs to draw up an effective protocol for this, otherwise things are going to get so much worse,” McCann predicted. “I am just taking one day at a time, but I am so glad to be alive.”