Blog | Drug Abuse

Xylazine: The Zombie Maker

There’s a new moniker for Puerto Rico: Zombie Island. Residents say that abuse of a new drug, xylazine, is turning its users into zombies.[1] There seem to be so many people abusing the drug that an epidemic of undead appears to have swept the island. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are addicted to this illicit substance, a drug abuse problem that has garnered the island other monikers as well – everything from the “new frontier for the war on drugs” to the “backdoor of America.”

Puerto Rico’s Drug War

Though Puerto Rico is a popular place for South American drug cartels to get their product into the United States due to its proximity to the US, as well as its many ports.

Like many countries that serve as a corridor for drug traffickers, an inordinate number of residents are falling victim to addiction themselves. High volumes of Xylazine and other drugs provide a steady supply to those who are interested in abusing the drug, and it doesn’t take long for addiction to develop.

With little to no economic base, many residents use the drug and sell it in an attempt to make ends meet.


XylazineXylazine is a relatively new substance on the drug scene.[2] Xylazine is a horse tranquilizer that causes its users to fall in and out of consciousness. Those who abuse the drug often appear as if they are stooping even if they are walking – which causes them to look like the zombies of Hollywood.

A xylazine high can last for up to six hours and users often feel compelled to search out their next hit while still under the influence.

Because there are so few jobs in Puerto Rico and xylazine addiction is so physically and mentally overwhelming, many addicts must panhandle or commit crimes in order to get more of the drug and maintain their addiction.

Xylazine and the U.S.

Because so many substances are funneled from South American through Puerto Rico and into the United States, the rising threat within our borders may just be xylazine. It has been in use in veterinarian practices since the year 2000, and is most commonly used to sedate horses during dental surgery or castration. In recent years, however, it has become a popular drug of abuse in Puerto Rico. The US may be next.

Help for Drug Addiction

If you or someone you care about is struggling with dependence upon any drug of addiction, getting the right treatment can mean the difference between life and death. Admissions coordinators are ready to answer your questions about treatment options that can help you change your life. Contact us at Michael’s House now to learn more about treatment programs that can help you kick the habit starting today.

[1] The Huffington Post, Latino Voices. “Zombie Island: Puerto Rico Drug Abusers Turning Resident Users Into Zombies,” January 23, 2014. Accessed April 11, 2017.

[2] US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. “The emerging of xylazine as a new drug of abuse and its health consequences among drug users in Puerto Rico,” June 2012. Accessed April 11, 2017.