Opioid overdoses involving xylazine in emergency department patients: a multicenter study

Jennifer S. Love, Michael Levine, Kim Aldy, Jeffrey Brent, Alex J. Krotulski, Barry K. Logan, Carmen Vargas-Torres, Sara E. Walton, Alexandra Amaducci, Diane Calello, Robert Hendrickson, Adrienne Hughes, Anita Kurt, Bryan Judge, Anthony Pizon, Evan Schwarz, Joshua Shulman, Timothy Wiegan, Paul Wax, Alex F. Manini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: Illicit opioids, consisting largely of fentanyl, novel synthetic opioids, and adulterants, are the primary cause of drug overdose fatality in the United States. Xylazine, an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist and veterinary tranquilizer, is being increasingly detected among decedents following illicit opioid overdose. Clinical outcomes in non-fatal overdose involving xylazine are unexplored. Therefore, among emergency department patients with illicit opioid overdose, we evaluated clinical outcome differences for patients with and without xylazine exposures. Methods: This multicenter, prospective cohort study enrolled adult patients with opioid overdose who presented to one of nine United States emergency departments between 21 September 2020, and 17 August 2021. Patients with opioid overdose were screened and included if they tested positive for an illicit opioid (heroin, fentanyl, fentanyl analog, or novel synthetic opioid) or xylazine. Patient serum was analyzed via liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectroscopy to detect current illicit opioids, novel synthetic opioids, xylazine and adulterants. Overdose severity surrogate outcomes were: (a) cardiac arrest requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (primary); and (b) coma within 4 h of arrival (secondary). Results: Three hundred and twenty-one patients met inclusion criteria: 90 tested positive for xylazine and 231 were negative. The primary outcome occurred in 37 patients, and the secondary outcome occurred in 111 patients. Using multivariable regression analysis, patients positive for xylazine had significantly lower adjusted odds of cardiac arrest (adjusted OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.10–0.92) and coma (adjusted OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.29–0.94). Conclusions: In this large multicenter cohort, cardiac arrest and coma in emergency department patients with illicit opioid overdose were significantly less severe in those testing positive for xylazine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023


  • Opioids
  • adulterants
  • fentanyl
  • toxicosurveillance
  • xylazine


Dive into the research topics of 'Opioid overdoses involving xylazine in emergency department patients: a multicenter study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this