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Xylazine in the Opioid Epidemic: A Systematic Review of Case Reports and Clinical Implications.

Curēus 2023 March
INTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVES: The opioid overdose epidemic is exacerbated by the emergence of Xylazine as an illicit drug adulterant. Xylazine, a veterinary sedative, can potentiate opioid effects while also causing toxic and potentially fatal side effects. This systematic review aims to assess the impact of Xylazine use and overdoses within the opioid epidemic context.

METHOD: A systematic search was conducted following PRISMA guidelines to identify relevant case reports, and case series related to Xylazine use. A comprehensive literature search included databases like Web of Science, PubMed, Embase, and Google Scholar, utilizing keywords and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms related to Xylazine. Thirty-four articles met the inclusion criteria for this review.

RESULTS: Intravenous (IV) administration was a common route for Xylazine use among various methods, including subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), and inhalation, with overall doses ranging from 40 mg to 4300 mg. The average dose in fatal cases was 1,200 mg, compared to 525 mg in non-fatal cases. Concurrent administration of other drugs, primarily opioids, occurred in 28 cases (47.5%). Intoxication was identified as a notable concern in 32 out of 34 studies, and treatments varied, with the majority experiencing positive outcomes. Withdrawal symptoms were documented in one case study, but the low number of cases with withdrawal symptoms may be attributed to factors such as a limited number of cases or individual variation. Naloxone was administered in eight cases (13.6%), and all patients recovered, although it should not be misconstrued as an antidote for Xylazine intoxication. Of the 59 cases, 21 (35.6%) resulted in fatal outcomes, with 17 involving Xylazine use in conjunction with other drugs. The IV route was a common factor in six out of the 21 fatal cases (28.6%).

CONCLUSION: This review highlights the clinical challenges associated with Xylazine use and its co-administration with other substances, particularly opioids. Intoxication was identified as a major concern, and treatments varied across the studies, including supportive care, naloxone, and other medications. Further research is needed to explore the epidemiology and clinical implications of Xylazine use. Understanding the motivations and circumstances leading to Xylazine use, as well as its effects on users, is essential for developing effective psychosocial support and treatment interventions to address this public health crisis.

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