Fentanyl is a highly addictive and dangerous synthetic opioid that is typically prescribed as a form of pain medication, but has been consistently misused on a continuing basis since 2013. It has also led to over 100,000 deaths in the US alone as reported in the UNODC World Drug Report, 2022.
If that wasn’t concerning enough, there are now several major drugs available on the market that are set to potentially take the place of fentanyl, and are being considered some of the most dangerous drugs available.
This article will explore how these drugs work, why they’re considered deadly, and why they might be even more lethal than fentanyl. It will include the statistics related to deaths and overdoses in the US for these drugs, and it will also provide useful information for what people can do if they become addicted to any of these drugs such as contacting free services or reaching out to a private addiction treatment provider.
Benzo Dope – The Destructive Synthetic Drug
Benzo Dope (also known as benzodiazepine, an addictive and deadly form of synthetic street drug) has been increasingly misused on the streets of Canada in recent years, and is now making its way over to the US, having been responsible for an increasing number of fatal overdoses.
Benzo dope refers to a drug that contains a mixture of benzodiazepines, which will consist of one-part tranquiliser and the other part opioid (typically fentanyl or heroin). Perhaps the biggest danger associated with the drug is the fact that it is more likely to lead to fatal overdoses.
This is because of the fact that the drug naloxone (which is an opioid antagonist drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose) is ineffective in preventing a benzo-related overdose.
Between 2019 to 2020, there were huge increases in US emergency room visits as a result of benzodiazepine overdose hospital visits. In that year alone there was an increase of 23.7% (measured against visits per 100,000 ER visits) according to data compiled by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Moreover, in relation to US benzo-related overdose deaths (with both illegal versions of the drug and prescription-based versions), the figure rose from 21.8% in 2019, to an alarmingly high 519.6% in 2020.
In addition, in the first half of 2020, around 92.7% of deaths that were linked to benzodiazepine use also involved the use of opioids within the same dose or batch taken, and 66.7% of that figure was attributed to the inclusion of illegal, street-manufactured fentanyl.
Xylazine – The Harmful Veterinary Tranquilizer
Xylazine (also known as tranq) is not a form of opioid, but it is a potentially lethal type of veterinary tranquilizer that is not safe or approved for humans to use according to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Xylazine is a form of depressant that affects the central nervous system. It is known to cause several effects including life-threateningly low blood pressure levels and a slower heart rate. It can restrict or slow down the ability to breathe normally, it can cause amnesia, and it can also cause drowsiness.
Similar to benzo dope, naloxone has only a partial effect on reversing the effects of xylazine. This is because xylazine is not an opioid (and drugs such as naloxone are designed for the express purpose of suppressing or reversing opioids).
For instance, naloxone does not reduce or resolve the breathing issue that is caused as a result of xylazine misuse. Therefore, additional drugs or preventative measures would be required in order to attempt to resolve the problems presented by xylazine misuse.
Moreover, the drug has been linked to a significant rise in deaths of an overdose nature, together with people developing addictions to the powerful drug. Scientific studies carried out by NIDA indicate that individuals who took xylazine were often taking it in conjunction with other deadly drugs without knowing it (in particular, fentanyl).
Between 2015 to 2020, xylazine-related overdose deaths increased from 2% to 26% in the state of Pennsylvania, and according to a report by BMJ Journals released in 2019, the drug was linked to 31% of fentanyl and heroin overdose deaths.
Elsewhere in the US, xylazine was a contributing factor in 19% of the overdose-related deaths that occurred in the state of Maryland in 2021, as well as representing 10% of overdose-related deaths in the state of Connecticut in 2020.
The Harmful Nature Of Polysubstance Use
As previously mentioned in this article, users of xylazine and benzo dope frequently use the drugs in tandem with other drugs, such as fentanyl and heroin. This is known as polysubstance abuse, and it is an extremely dangerous practice.
The dangers can be two-fold in that they could result in instances such as the benzo dope issue, whereby opioid antagonist drugs are not able to reverse the effects of the drug, and this can then lead to a fatal overdose.
Or alternatively, polysubstance abuse can also lead to situations whereby the body begins to shut down on all fronts, since it is unable to cope with the effects of several drugs at once, especially if they have opposing effects. It can cause bodily distress, and ultimately death as a result.
What To Do To Overcome Addiction
If people find themselves addicted to fentanyl, xylazine, benzo dope, opioids in general, or any other form of drug, help is never too far away.
If the user has been faced with an overdose situation, the best course of action is immediate hospitalization. Once the patient has been stabilized and the effects of the overdose have been successfully reversed, treatment options can start to be considered.
For more long-term recoveries, the best option would be to enter a rehab program (also known as a residential treatment program). As the name suggests, the patient would temporarily reside at the facility while they undergo the detoxification process, and then the subsequent treatment for their addiction.
Some of the benefits of entering a rehab facility include 24/7 access to healthcare physicians and mental health experts, access to medication treatment, continual monitoring from physicians, access to counseling and therapy, a luxury place to reside during treatment, and much more.