WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Many street drugs like heroin and cocaine are being cut with xylazine and its presence can mean tragic consequences for users.

Xylazine is a drug 22News covered before, but this time, it’s not only personal but local. A mom grieving the loss of her son contacted the 22News I-Team to share his story to increase awareness in an effort to prevent future deaths and hopefully, spur change.

“I’m not a scientist. But I know that the xylazine was like 33 mg amounts. Like someone is playing chemist out there. Stop. You are killing our kids.”

Xylazine, the skin-rotting zombie drug, is becoming an increasing problem in western Massachusetts. It is mixed with street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, and has devastating side effects.

A Westfield Mom is shattered from the loss of her son, who we will call Tyrone. Tyrone died in July. According to the medical examiner’s office, Tyrone’s cause of death was acute intoxication due to xylazine, cocaine, and alcohol.

Xylazine is its pharmaceutical name, tranq is its street name. Tranq because xylazine is a horse tranquilizer used in veterinary medicine. The DEA issued an alert about the increasing presence of xylazine in drugs in March. Xylazine-involved overdoses have been occurring most in the Northeast where xylazine-related deaths are up 103 percent.

Dr. Bill Soares, Director of Harm Reduction Services, Department of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Medical Center says he’s seen an increase in the number of people presenting with overdoses locally. “The deadliest thing, the most deadly thing about xylazine and fentanyl in cocaine is that people don’t realize that is potentially in what they think is cocaine.”

“He’s out there looking for a good time and he gets spiked with a drug and then left to die,” Westfield mother who lost her son to an overdose with xylazine.

Lethal drugs like xylazine are almost impossible to detect.

“Someone may say this is cocaine or something else, but really you can’t tell by looking at it. You can’t tell by feeling it, the texture of anything like that. It is really hard to know what is in that drug supply,” Dr. Bill Soares told 22News.

Dr. Soares said xylazine testing strips are becoming more readily available. Harm reduction sites such as Gandara Center and Tapestry may have some or know where to get them.

While Tyrone’s death was ruled accidental, his mother wants justice. She wants the people who didn’t get her son medical attention held responsible and she wants the drug dealers to stop mixing drugs with lethal substances such as xylazine.

The federal government has taken notice. In February of this year, the FDA announced it is working to restrict the unlawful entry of xylazine into the country to stem the growing public health concern. The FDA says it’s stopped four shipments of unapproved xylazine and placed alerts on others.

In April, the White House officially identified xylazine as an emerging threat. The state of Massachusetts adheres to the Good Samaritan Law which protects people from charges for possession or use of drugs when they call for medical assistance for people who are overdosing. So if you have someone overdosing in your home, do not hesitate to call an ambulance for help.

Local News

WWLP-22News, an NBC affiliate, began broadcasting in 1953 by providing local news, network, syndicated, and local programming to western Massachusetts. Follow 22News on X @WWLP22News, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.