When it comes to the newest designer drug to hit the scene, “flakka” is right at the top of the most destructive. While it hasn’t officially been banned yet by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), like other bath salts containing the commonly abused cathinone MDMA, flakka is wreaking major havoc across at least three states including Florida, Texas and Ohio. Flakka is a very dangerous new designer drug — like bath salts on steroids.
What Is Flakka?
Flakka is a synthetic amphetamine-like stimulant produced from alpha-PVP, synthetically derived and made from a derivative of cathinone, similar to the compound in bath salts. But flakka goes far beyond bath salts in the potential damage it can cause users.
Highly addictive, both from a physical and psychological perspective, flakka can cause effects that last from 3 to 4 hours — or they can linger for days. The drug comes in crystalline rock form and users can snort, swallow, inject or use it in an e-cigarette or vaping device. Flakka is also called gravel in some parts of the country, due to its appearance that looks like grainy pebbles.
The immediate as well as long-term effects of cathinones are equal to or greater than those from strong methamphetamine or cocaine. What’s gotten so much attention lately are cases of “excited delirium” syndrome caused by flakka use. This involves the body going into hyperthermia, with a temperature of 105 degrees.
Psychologically, flakka can cause anxiety, paranoia and delusions and users become psychotic, ripping off their clothes and behaving in an extremely agitated and aggressive fashion. They seem to have super-human strength, often requiring multiple law enforcement officers to restrain and contain them.
If they don’t receive immediate medical attention, flakka users in such a state can die. In 2013 alone, there were 126 reported deaths due to synthetic cathinone in Florida. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that cases of flakka have grown from none in 2010 to 85 in 2012 and more than 670 in 2014. Statistics are not yet available for 2015.
Cathinone use can also cause melting of muscle tissue and the resulting release of muscle fibers into the bloodstream. Kidney failure and a permanent reliance on dialysis may be the outcome.
Not Always Pure: Users Never Know What’s in Flakka
Produced in China, Pakistan and India, flakka is not always pure. It may be cut or combined with illegal substances ranging from heroin to cocaine, or sprinkled with marijuana. When purchased online or on the street, users never know exactly what’s in the product. Police refer to these as “guinea pig” drugs for the simple fact that flakka users never know the strength or the composition of what they’re buying and using.
Exacerbating the dangers of using flakka is using the drug while already high on other substances, a practice known as “snacking.”
With the cost criminally low, at roughly $5 a hit, flakka appeals to those seeking an instant euphoria and cracker-jack feeling of alertness.
Bottom line: Flakka isn’t going away anytime soon — at least not until the FDA bans the drug. Becoming better educated about the dangers and risks of flakka is the first line of defense for parents and others concerned about its widespread use.
Anyone who’s become addicted to flakka should seek professional help to overcome dependence on the drug and learn how to live a healthier lifestyle.
By Suzanne Kane