“Man gnawed on and disfigured another man’s face before being shot to death by police.” “Man tried to break down the door of the police station in Fort Lauderdale.” “Man impaled himself while trying to climb a fence.” The subjects of these news headlines have one thing in common: all were reported to be high on flakka. Flakka, a new designer synthetic drug, is hitting the streets and grabbing the headlines of many newspapers across the US. The Drug Enforcement Agency has reported huge increase in reported cases of flakka from 85 cases in 2010 to over 670 in 2014. This designer drug, with a similar make up to bath salts, is a Schedule 1 Drug as designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meaning it is a substance with high potential for abuse. And the DEA shows that people are abusing.
So what is flakka??
Flakka is produced from a compound known as alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone, or more simply, alpha-PVP. Alpha-PVP is synthetically derived from an amphetamine-like derivative of cathinone (found in the khat plant). Because of its synthetic nature, each batch varies in potency making it impossible for users to anticipate the exact effects. Unlike cocaine, flakka is cheap and extremely accessible. It is often purchased online from China, Pakistan and India and can be purchased for as little as $3-$5 per dose. The inexpensive price gives it another street nickname “$5 insanity”. Being extremely addictive and cheap allows for flakka to be the prime drug for users to keep buying.
Flakka is foul smelling and comes in white or pink crystalline form. Flakka is the name Florida has been using to describe alpha-PVP but the rest of the U.S. calls it gravel, due to the fact it looks like the colorful gravel pebbles that you would use to decorate the bottom of a fish bowl. Flakka can be snorted, smoked, vaped, injected or swallowed. It can be combined with anything from heroin to cocaine or even sprinkled on cannabis.
From its cheap price to its accessibility to its variability in using, flakka is being marketed as a prime drug to all. Unfortunately, the effects are intense and in many cases cause death. It is physically and psychologically addictive and can cause the following effects:
- Unprovoked paranoia
- Emotional hostility
- Physical aggression
- Hallucinations or “excited delirium”
- Rapid weight loss
- Kidney damage/failure (body temperatures can rise to 105 degrees while taking flakka)
Flakka acts an inhibitor of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are important chemicals for nerve transmission, causing a prolonged effect of excited delirium and can severely impair judgment as seen by the headlines at the top of this article. The effects can last as little as 3-4 hours or up to several days. It can take up to 30 days to fully get the drug out of one’s system.
Although this trend is mainly in Florida, it is quickly spreading to the rest of the country. This new trend could lead to greater harm in those seeking altered states of consciousness, especially since the potency of the drug is unpredictable. “The dangerous thing about synthetic drugs is that the chemicals used to make them are always changing,” said Sgt. Chris Cesena of the Kansas City police drug enforcement unit. “The user doesn’t realize what they’re taking. These are harsh chemicals.”