LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a bold move, the FDA said it would restrict imports of an animal tranquilizer that has been increasingly found in illegal drugs like fentanyl and heroin.
"Tranq," as it's known, is quickly making its way into the Southland.
Xylazine, or tranq, is also called the "zombie drug" because when injected it cuts off circulation, causing the user's skin to peel.
"Without that blood flow, hose wounds can become so seriously infected that they turn into really bad abscesses or ulcers," said Dr. Siddarth Puri with L.A County's Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Division.
When ingested, this drug designed to tranquilize large animals like horses can be deadly to humans especially when mixed with already powerful opioids.
"Because it lowers our blood pressure, our breathing rate, and our heart rate to dangerous levels," Puri said.
In San Francisco where officials recently recorded four overdoses associated with Tranq, Jacqui Berlinn is worried her son Corey, who's battling addiction on the streets, has encountered it.
"He said that whatever was in the drugs that he took made it so he absolutely couldn't move his body," said Berlinn.
"It's accessible, and it enhances the highs of drugs like fentanyl. A lot of drug suppliers are mixing it in unbeknownst to the users," said Puri.
The L.A County Department of Public Health recently issued an advisory to medical providers alerting them that Tranq's effects cannot be reversed by Naloxone or Narcan, but the opioid antidote should still be administered.
"If someone has overdosed from a combination of Xylazine and opioids. The naloxone will work on the part of the overdose caused by the opioid," Puri said.
The Food and Drug Administration just announced it's restricting xylazine imports which means the agency can detain shipments to ensure the drug is meant for legitimate use.
And while you can't use fentanyl strips to test for Tranq, Puri said you can contact L.A. County Harm Reduction Unit to identify chemical compounds before using any drug.
"That machine will spit out exactly what is in the substance, and it can detect Xylazine ," he said.
Puri said awareness will keep people alive. He wants people to know there are places to go where you can get testing strips, Naloxone and help If you're struggling with a substance use disorder and addiction.