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Xylazine-induced skin ulcer
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Xylazine-induced skin ulcer

Contributors: Jourdan Brandon MD, Asha Nanda MD, John T. Finnell MD, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Xylazine is sold under the names Rompun, AnaSed, Sedazine, and Chanazine. It is a nonopioid alpha-2 adrenergic agonist veterinary anesthetic agent that inhibits the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system, resulting in the clinical effects of sedation and analgesia. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve it for human use. However, it has been identified as a drug of abuse and an adulterant in street drugs.

Xylazine has recently emerged as a drug of concern in the United States, as its prevalence as a drug of abuse and as an adulterant in street drugs has significantly increased. Its presence in overdose deaths in the United States has increased from 0.36% of deaths in 2015 to 6.7% in 2020. Xylazine alone can be ingested, smoked, snorted, or injected, producing various effects, depending on the dose administered. It can produce energizing effects and hypertension at a minute dose, but increasing doses cause sedative effects, bradycardia, and hypotension that can progress to hemodynamic instability and respiratory arrest. See alpha-2 adrenocepter agonist poisoning for treating xylazine overdose.

Xylazine is an increasingly common additive to street drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine. It is thought to serve as a bulking agent to increase the supply of drug products and reportedly extends the duration of the opioid effect when combined with fentanyl and heroin. Xylazine has been detected across the United States, but Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut have the highest reported prevalence.

Chronic injection use of xylazine, either intentionally or unintentionally with adulterated drugs, has been associated with the development of abscesses and ulceration that primarily occur on the extremities. Skin ulceration is thought to occur due to direct vasoconstriction of vessels supplying the skin. The decreased perfusion of soft tissues subsequently impairs wound healing and increases the risk of infection, ulceration, and skin necrosis. Ulcerations may occur more diffusely, not limited to the drug injection site.

Without treatment, these lesions can progress to cause osteomyelitis, bacteremia, sepsis, and, in serious cases, amputation of extremities and severe disability.


F19.10 – Other psychoactive substance abuse, uncomplicated
L27.1 – Localized skin eruption due to drugs and medicaments taken internally

110285005 – Drug-induced ulceration
200893007 – Localized skin eruption caused by drug and medicament

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

Skin ulceration:
  • Bullous impetigo
  • Ecthyma
  • Skin bacterial abscess
  • Cellulitis
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Atypical mycobacterial infection
  • Stasis ulcer
  • Neurogenic ulcer
  • Ischemic ulcer
  • Martorell hypertensive leg ulcer
  • Panniculitis with ulceration
  • Leprosy
  • Cutaneous tuberculosis
  • Deep fungal infection
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis
  • Tropical ulcer
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Buerger disease
  • Vasculitis
  • Rheumatoid vasculitis
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica with ulceration
  • Scleroderma
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Tertiary syphilis
  • Bullous pemphigoid
  • Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
Acute xylazine overdose:
  • Alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist poisoning can resemble opioid poisoning with respiratory depression, miosis, hypotension, and bradycardia. However, it can be differentiated from Opioid overdose by lack of response to naloxone.

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:01/18/2023
Last Updated:09/07/2023
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Xylazine-induced skin ulcer
A medical illustration showing key findings of Xylazine-induced skin ulcer
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