‘Zombie drug’ killing Georgians, overdose cases on the rise

·2 min read

The Georgia Department of Public Health is warning about a rising number of overdose deaths involving an animal tranquilizer mixed with fentanyl.

The so-called “zombie drug” can also decay the skin of its users.

Julie Russell is a Stephens County mother who lost her daughter to a drug overdose involving fentanyl and the tranquilizer, xylazine.

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“It’s terrifying. I mean fentanyl is terrifying. This is even more terrifying because there’s no known antidote”, Russell told Channel 2′s Tom Regan.

Russell’s 21-year-old daughter, Lauren, overdosed and died while in a rehabilitation center.

A man snuck drugs to her that she believed to be heroin.

Tests found the drug only contained fentanyl and xylazine.

“They told me she had been found that morning at 8:30 a.m. deceased. I didn’t get to say goodbye. She died alone. I wonder if she was scared”, Russell explained through tears.

Unlike fentanyl, xylazine is resistant to overdose-reversing drugs like Narcan or Naloxone.

The number of deaths linked to xylazine with fentanyl is sharply rising in Georgia.


Lieutenant Commander Laura Edison with the Georgia Department of Public Health said, “In 2019, I think we had just 15 deaths. Where in 2022 we had over 183 deaths. Those numbers are still being counted, so it will probably go up.”

Edison is also a veterinarian and horse owner.

She’s administered xylazine, a sedative, to horses and other large animals.

It’s extremely dangerous for humans and can cause skin to rot in regular users.

“It sedates people and can cause necrotic lesions, which might be a part of the reason that it’s nicknamed the zombie drug”, Edison said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently reported a widespread threat of fentanyl mixed with xylazine.

The agency said it was found in 23% of fentanyl powder and 70% of fentanyl pills seized.

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The DEA recently warned, “Xylazine is making the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced, fentanyl, even deadlier.”

In April, the federal government announced xylazine would be classified as a controlled substance.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy also requested $11 million to help with strategies to tackle the drug’s spread.

Xylazine is mixed into fentanyl to prolong the opioid high, a marketing pitch for drug dealers.

Russell told Channel 2 Action News, “It’s horrific how they can sleep at night over a dollar, over money.”

She’s devoting her life to warning others of the dangers of xylazine and fentanyl as a tribute to her daughter.