Montreal public health warning about street drugs mixed with animal tranquillizer

Xylazine is a nearly undetectable animal tranquillizer that can kill human users and cause skin necrosis.

Xylazine is an animal tranquillizer showing up in street drugs in Montreal

Drugs are being examined in a laboratory.
Montreal public health officials examined 300 urine samples from drug users in Montreal in the fall of 2022 and found xylazine in five per cent of the tests. (Totojang/Istock)

Montreal public health officials are warning of a new and potentially deadly ingredient increasingly turning up in street drugs. 

The drug, xylazine, is a sedative and pain reliever for animals. It is not intended for human consumption, but it is being cut with opioids to get users high for longer, according to Jean-Francois Mary, executive director of CACTUS safe injection site in Montreal.

Xylazine is hard to detect when mixed with other drugs. Montreal public health became aware of its increased use after studying drug-users' urine last Fall.

Preliminary results showed xylazine was present in five per cent of the tests. 

Mary warns there are serious risks associated with this drug, especially when combined with alcohol. He says xylazine can cause death, or skin necrosis necessitating amputations.

He also raises questions about the length of time it took Montreal public health to release their data.

"We should not have a six month delay to learn that we have such issues. They need to step up and provide us with almost real time data so that we can act on the frontline," he said.

Montreal public health is recommending naloxone for opioid overdoses and to consider xylazine exposure if patients are not responding to naloxone.

with files from Douglas Gelevan.