When writers ask for unusual and lethal drugs to consider for a plot twist, my list usually includes Krokodil. When I describe the effects of Krokodil, the typical response is disbelief. Why would anyone use a drug that’s demonically addictive AND rots their flesh, eventually leading to amputation, death, or both?
While I can’t give them an answer, I’ve at least been able to assure them that a drug as dangerous as Krokodil hasn’t made too many inroads in the US and may fit better in stories taking place in Russia, among other countries.
Recently, a new drug in the US has been wreaking havoc among street drug abusers. This powerful chemical combines the flesh-eating risk of Krokodil with the opioid risk of not breathing. Worse, the antidote Narcan (naloxone) that can restart breathing after an opioid overdose does NOT work for this new drug.
Tanq Dope- the Zombie Drug*
What is this new drug? Xylazine, nicknamed ‘tranq,’ ‘tranq dope,’ or ‘zombie drug*.’ This veterinary tranquilizer has found its way into the US and is being mixed into a wide variety of street drugs, such as fentanyl and heroin. It’s also been pressed into counterfeit pain pills that look like oxycodone, Vicodin, or Xanax.
And users can’t tell that their drug contains xylazine, until it’s too late.
Initially, tranq was more of a problem on the east coast, but recently has spread across the US to LA and elsewhere, leaving the devastation of death in its wake.
Plotting with Tranq Dope
Drug overdose is always a heart-wrenching topic, but as writers we emulate the real world, making our characters more relatable. A few tips for creating realistic drug-related scenes, overdose or otherwise, can be found here.
If you’re looking for plot twist ideas specifically using tranq dope, consider the following:
- The reader knows the drug is tainted, but your character doesn’t:
- If you’ve planted enough seeds for the reader to know the dangers, when the xylazine-laced drug is used, your reader will keep turning the pages to see if their favorite character gets out of this one alive…or is about to be killed off.
- The reader doesn’t know the drug is tainted:
- When your character gives in to the need for another fentanyl high, instead of the typical cycle of get high-overdose-stop breathing-Narcan rescue that your reader has come to expect from a particular character…this time, the antidote doesn’t work. The character dies. The reader is shocked.
Character Backstory with Tranq Dope
Sometimes, a dangerous drug can help create a compelling backstory for your main character. Your protagonist that spends his evenings as a vigilante wiping out drug lords, may have developed his deep hate for these criminals when his sister died a painful death from tranq dope-tainted heroin or cocaine. Or maybe your character is a recovered heroin addict who doesn’t talk much about why his leg was amputated a few years ago.
If you’re interested in reading more about this dangerous drug, here are a few links to get you started:
- Flesh-eating ‘zombie drug’ saturating LA
- Skin rotting drug ‘tranq’ infiltrates big cities
- What you should know about xylazine
Looking for other dangerous drug scenarios and plot twists?
Check out The Grim Reader: A Pharmacists Guide to Putting Your Character’s In Peril, coming out in 2024.
*Zombie Drugs- Over the decades, several drugs have been dubbed ‘zombie drugs,’ such as Flakka, Krokodil, and now Tranq.
Photo credits: Pixabay: Sasi Tipchai, Operation