FLAKKA USE IS ON THE RISE
In August of 2016 reports surfaced that Austin Harrouff, a 19-year-old Florida State University student, stabbed a married couple to death in their Jupiter, Florida home, and then gnawed at the male victim’s face. The FSU fraternity brother grunted like an animal as police tried to subdue him during the attack, officials said.
Authorities believe Harrouff was high on flakka, a highly addictive designer drug that causes paranoia and psychosis.
How is Flakka Used?
Flakka, whose proper name is alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone- alpha-PVP or a-PVP, comes as a foul-smelling crystal that the user can snort, eat, inject, or vape. Vaporizing flakka, which is popular among teens since it gives off no odor, seems to be the most harmful way to take the drug.
Vaping sends flakka directly into the bloodstream, making it particularly easy to overdose.
Alpha-PVP is chemically similar to other bath salts, an emerging family of drugs containing one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the Khat plant. Across the country, bath salts led to 23,000 emergency room visits in one year; 67 percent of that total resulted from bath salts combined with other drugs. Among those needing medical attention, common reactions include cardiac symptoms and psychiatric symptoms. Flakka is closely related to the synthetic cathinone that police linked to the infamous face-eating attack in Miami four years ago. The man-made drug that’s manufactured primarily in China entered the states only a few years ago but didn’t soar in popularity until 2013. Florida has seen the brunt of the flakka abuse. The epidemic began to spread to the Midwest last year.
How Popular is Flakka?
According to Forbes contributor Robert Glatter, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has seen a nearly 780% increase in the number of reported cases in the last three years. Back in 2010, not a single case of the drug had been reported in the US. Suddenly in 2012, there were 85 cases, and in 2014 there were 670.
Although touted as “new” the drug was originally synthesized in the 1960s. Recent attention came due to the high-profile death of Adonis Escoto, who died after the Ultra Music Festival in Miami in 2014. Adonis started feeling sick while at Ultra. His friends, however, thought he had simply drunk too much, and they took him to their car to sober up. When they returned a couple of hours later, Escoto was dead. There have been several other cases that made headlines, as well. Two of the stories involve what otherwise might be laughably naked men: one who believes he is the mythical god Thor; the other running down a busy street believing himself pursued by a pack of German shepherds. Meanwhile, a third man, convinced people are chasing him, impales himself on a fence.
The low cost of the drug is a factor in its popularity. The drug runs approximately $5 for a vial and can easily be bought in bulk. It can be horrifically dangerous and addictive for users.
There is no specific age range for the user of Flakka, but teen use seems to be on the rise.
What are the street names/slang terms?
Flakka, Gravel, Bath bath, Zombie drug
What does it look like?
Flakka comes in the form of white or pink crystals. It has the appearance of crystal pebbles.
What are its short-term effects?
- Euphoric Sensations
- Rapid Heart Rate and Palpitations
- Increase Blood Pressure
- Aggressive Behavior
The effects of the comedown from Flakka (the period when the drug leaves the body) include fatigue and depression.
This sensation often results in users returning to the drug to get rid of the negative comedown feeling, jump-starting a cycle of use that can lead to abuse. As tolerance to the drug develops, the user will require more and more Flakka to feel high, risking dangerous effects, overdose, and even death.
Flakka can cause “excited delirium,” which includes hyper-stimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations. These hallucinations and delusions are key to its allure yet also cause for concern. It has been known to give people superhuman strength due to the rush of adrenaline and can lead to extreme violence. At high doses, it can dangerously raise body temperature and lead to kidney damage and muscle breakdown. Flakka can also lead to violent aggression and self-injury and has been linked to suicides and heart attacks.
During the use of the drug, the body can go into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic. The users have been known to do strange behaviors such as ripping off their clothes and running out into the street violently.
There have been at least 136 known deaths resulting from the use of this drug in 2015 and 2016.
The drug has varied effects and its use is unpredictable, even the same user can have wide variables after using the drug, having a completely different result from one use to the other. Its effects can last as little as a couple of hours, to as long as several days.
What are the long-term effects?
As this drug is considered a more recent synthetic drug more research is being collected on the long-term effects. The long-term effects of Flakka look as though they will rival some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine.
The unknown effects of Flakka have many alarmed about its use and popularity, as no one knows what exactly the drug can do to the body and brain in the long term.
Flakka dependence in humans is still being researched; scientists have shown that Flakka is as addictive as bath salts in rodent studies, however. Even after making the drug difficult for rats to obtain, they persisted in pushing a lever several times that administer the drug if they failed to get it from the scientists first.
Flakka is believed to have similar addiction potential to bath salts and methamphetamine, two highly addictive stimulant substances.
This drug is sweeping the state of Florida with a high concentration in south Florida. The mind-altering substance has gained a following in Tennessee, Texas, and Ohio and is spreading.
Where does it come from?
As noted, Flakka is in the same chemical class as the drug “Bath Salts”. The difference between flakka and bath salts is they’re based on different compounds, and the one in flakka isn’t illegal. Flakka is made from alpha-PVP, (cathinone).
Bath salts are made from MDPV, a cathinone derivative that’s now banned.
Cathinone: (above photo) The khat (pronounced cot) plant has been chewed on in the horn of Africa for thousands of years. Typically chewed much like chewing tobacco and stored in the cheek to slowly release its chemicals. The primary chemicals of the plant are cathinone and cathine, these are similar to amphetamine in structure.
Flakka is as potent as methamphetamine, yet with an even higher propensity for addiction development in those who abuse this substance. Add this to the low-cost and bizarre news reports that seem entertaining at first glance and we have the mixture of a very serious problem.