Sept. 10, 2023 – Are the videos, seen by millions of TikTok and YouTube users, a horrifying form of exploitation and voyeurism? Or are they the cutting edge of a new form of citizen journalism shedding light on failed public policies? 

The videos, depicting individuals addicted to xylazine and living in an epicenter of the nation’s opioid crisis, are sparking conversation on an undercovered issue. Yet some warn that the images, often taken without consent, dehumanize and exploit those who are suffering for social media clout.

As xylazine — which the federal government now considers the “deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced” — sweeps the country, ethical questions about filming “Zombieland” videos will grow more urgent.

“YouTubers and TikTokers — they aren’t journalists, they aren’t doing any investigative work — they’re using stigmatizing language, they’re interviewing people who are heavily intoxicated and cannot give their consent, they’re asking traumatizing questions, and they’re monetizing it and leaving, without giving so much as a bottle of water to a human,” Savage Sisters founder Sarah Laurel tells The New York Sun. 


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