Flakka: Is this New Synthetic Drug More Dangerous than Bath Salts?
The new street drug, ‘flakka’ is causing people to strip off their clothes in a state of psychosis, and put their own lives – and the lives of others – in danger.
Horrifying news reports continue to shed light on the violent, delusional, and deadly behaviours of people high on new synthetic drugs such as ‘flakka‘. These man-made drugs pose extreme and multi-faceted dangers to users and the public, and flakka is the newest and potentially most dangerous drug of its kind yet.
What is Flakka?
Flakka has slowly popped up across the US, with reports of its use in Florida, Ohio, and Texas, and police fear its availability and use will inevitably spread to other parts of the country. Along with police, medical professionals and addiction experts are equally concerned about the appearance of yet another new synthetic drug that we have very little data about.
Flakka, also known on the street as ‘gravel’ due to its crystalline rock form, is made from the chemical Alpha-PVP, a synthetic version of the stimulant cathinone. Cathinone is chemically derived from the khat plant which is grown in the Middle East and Somalia, where people chew the leaves to experience a euphoric high. A different synthetic version of cathinone, MDVP, is used to create bath salts, another dangerous drug that made headlines a few years ago as its popularity spiked. These chemicals are generally made in labs in China and dealers can purchase the drugs online.
The drug is designed to cause the brain to flood with dopamine similar to many other euphoria producing drugs, but with flakka the drug also blocks re-uptake of the neurotransmitter so the dopamine remains in the brain. This makes it particularly dangerous as it can cause prolonged negative effects long after the euphoria of the drug has worn off.
How does it affect users?
Flakka can be taken in just about any way imaginable including snorting, smoking, injecting, and swallowing. It can also be used in e-cigarettes or vape pens, making it easily concealable in public.
As a stimulant it has similar properties to other stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, yet it comes with a host of its own more dangerous effects. Along with feelings of euphoria and high energy, users experience more alarming episodes of extreme paranoia, psychosis, violence, and bizarre behaviour. The initial high lasts from 3-4 hours, but effects can linger for several days.
Recently in Florida, flakka users have been making the headlines with bizarre and violent outbursts. The drug can cause hallucinations and an extreme adrenaline rush. One man in a frenzied panic tried to break down the door of police headquarters with adrenaline-fuelled force in Fort Lauderdale. Once he was restrained by several men, he told officers he was high on flakka and thought he was being chased.
A few weeks later, another man on flakka tried to escape police by scaling a spiked fence surrounding the barracks. His escape did not end well, as he was impaled by a foot long spike through the crotch. Rescuers were able to cut him from the fence and rush him to hospital where the spike was surgically removed. At the hospital he also underwent psychological evaluation following the incident.
A third man made headlines in South Florida after police were called to find a man naked and armed on his roof shouting that someone was trying to kill him. Luckily, he was coaxed from the roof by a SWAT team before harming himself or anyone else. Following the incident he told police he had vaped flakka. The man had a history of drug offenses and was arrested for possessing a firearm.
Dangers of Flakka
In addition to potentially violent behaviour, psychosis, and delusions that lead people to put themselves and others in danger, flakka can cause serious negative health effects including death.
According to Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Centre for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, Florida, there has been an increase in cases of what is called “excited delirium” caused by flakka. This dangerous medical state causes body temperatures to rise to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, where people experience acute psychosis, often stripping their clothes, running violently into the street and exhibiting super-human strength. It can take several people to restrain an individual in this state and once restrained immediate medical attention is required to prevent death.
The dosage is difficult to control and there is a very fine line between the amount it takes to get high and the amount it takes to cause an overdose. Drugs derived from cathinone also cause muscle tissue to break down which can lead to permanent kidney failure. Medical professionals are concerned that those who survive an overdose may need kidney dialysis for the rest of their lives. In 2013, there were a total of 126 reported deaths tied to synthetic cathinone in Florida. With use skyrocketing in the years since, this number is sure to go up.
Like other stimulants, including cocaine, users experience a ‘come down’ as the drug wears off, which can trigger intense depression and agitation, and leads people to take more of the drug in order to relieve the symptoms. When this pattern of substance abuse occurs, there is a strong chance for developing drug addiction.
Flakka drug effects are obviously cause for concern and you may be wondering why anyone would want to take such a drug. Unfortunately, many users are unaware of what they are getting, and many dealers may not even know exactly what it is they are selling. It can also be mixed with just about any other drug, which given its particularly dangerous side effects, is quite frightening.
The drug is cheap, selling for as little as 5 dollars a pop, and new users are essentially guinea pigs. Parents should be aware of the new drug and its effects as dealers may target teens and poorer populations in order to get people hooked in and buying more.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, seek help from a professional addiction specialist. At The Cabin Addiction Services Group, we are dedicated to providing the most advanced treatment methods and keeping up to date with the effects and addictive potential of new drugs.