Flakka – The New Dangerous Designer Drug
Recently, there have been a lot of outrageous stories about people in Florida doing strange things. For example, a man rushed out of his house in Miami a month ago. He ripped off all his clothes and screamed violently while running. This occurred after smoking Flakka, a crystal-like drug. It took five police officers to take him down. The “excited delirium” that the user ends up in seems to create a superhuman strength. With this strength, there is delusion, paranoia, and hallucination.
The drug is new to the scene. It is a synthetic amphetamine-like stimulant. Flakka has the same type of compounds that are found in bath salts (cathinones). The drug is being purchased online, primarily from China. Small town dealers are then peddling it, making it easily attainable and very cheap at $3.00 per hit. This article will offer some insight into this new, popular drug trend that seems to be spreading through several states in the U.S. this year.
Exponential Growth of Flakka in Florida
Florida in particular is experiencing a major influx of this street drug that creates a zombie-like effect. Flakka drug effects include many users running through the streets naked. This is likely due to the increase of their body temperature. They will impale themselves into car windows or jump over fences. They believe they are being chased or shot at and will do anything to get away.
In 2014, there were about 2,000 cases where the drug was involved. At the end of 2017, there was nearly 3,000 cases. There are police officers in Florida that are specializing in Flakka because it’s become such a huge part of their job. There is also a lot of manpower that needs to be used when there is a suspected Flakka case they have to attend to. The behavior is scary, as though a person is possessed. This video shows various accounts of users doing things that people would describe as “being possessed by the devil.”
What is Flakka?
A few years ago, news stories told horrific tales about people who were using bath salts to get high. Flakka is very closely related as far as its chemical makeup goes. It’s frequently called “gravel” on the streets because it closely resembles the material a person might use in the bottom of a fish tank, and it can be white or pink in color. Flakka is made from alpha-PVP, which is a cousin of the drug, cathinone. Cathinone is the drug found in bath salts. In 2011, cathinone was banned in the United States, but alpha-PVP somehow managed to slip under the radar. It is legal in every state, and is injected, smoked or snorted. One of the main things that attract users to Flakka is the price. A person can achieve an excellent high for very little.
Alpha-PVP, the main ingredient in Flakka is categorized as an “upper,” which means it’s linked with intense feelings of euphoria. It makes a person feel alert, but it also causes an increase in movements, hallucinations, and psychotic responses. In a way, Flakka works in the same way amphetamines and cocaine work. Dopamine levels are increased as well as norepinephrine levels. When the human body experiences a surge of these two levels, the result is an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The surge in dopamine causes the feelings of euphoria.
How Do You Take it?
The drug can be taken in a few different ways. The most common method is to take some of the crystals or rocks and roll it into a cigarette. Flakka with marijuana is common too. It may also be injected or snorted. Some will put them into a vape or e-cigarette to hide their drug use which seems a bit ridiculous anyway. Once a person becomes high on this drug, it’s apparent that there’s an abnormality in personality.
What does the Flakka Drug High Feel Like?
You may have seen news accounts of people on Flakka or perhaps you’ve looked at some of the YouTube videos. It is clear that paranoia and hallucinations occur for many. At low doses, it should make a user feel euphoria. They will feel the need to move around a lot. There are many accounts of people dancing in the rain. Higher doses create delusions, twitching, seizures, and muscles cramps that make a person jerk.
They will often arrive at the hospital naked and disoriented. They believe they’re being chased by the devil sometimes. They become very afraid and adrenaline kicks in, giving them seemingly super power.
What’s it Like to Be on Flakka?
This video tells the tale of how out of it users are when they’re at the peak of the high.
It is often described as being similar to cocaine and amphetamines, giving the user euphoric sensations. Flakka use will flood dopamine in the brain, which is what gives us a sense of pleasure. Additionally, it hinders the reuptake of dopamine, which is where the euphoric feelings come from. The heart rate increases and can cause palpitations. When someone is tripping out, this can be a terrifying sensation and induce panic.
There is an increase in blood pressure too and the person becomes very alert. Behavior often becomes aggressive as they fight off demons and other things that aren’t actually there. Once the person starts to come down from Flakka, they will often feel fatigue and depressed. Users will have a lot of energy due to elevation in heart rate. When they do panic, this can and has been a recipe for disaster.
What Flakka Addicts Say About the High
A recovering Flakka addict was interviewed, he stated that when on a trip, you think you’re someone you’re not. He thought he was Al Capone. He goes on to say that you’re in your own world and you will look to get another hit once the drug starts to wear off. There is a zombie-like nature to people when they’re on the drug and it’s as though they’ve lost control of their muscles and their mind.
How Are Users Starting?
Small time drug dealers are pushing the drugs on the streets of various areas in South Florida. It’s cheap to try and many users of the drug had tried bath salts before. The Drug Policy Alliance has called Flakka the “second generation bath salts.” As these types of synthetics keep popping up, it’s possible that someone was previously using another form of the psychoactive stimulant methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). The recipe for these kinds of drugs keep changing. It keeps the manufacturers in business to change their recipes in order to avoid Schedule 1 definitions. This keeps the drug legal while offering acute effects.
College students, low-income people, and the homeless are the most frequent users of Flakka. This is due to how cheap it is. A gram of cocaine is about $70 a gram on average and Flakka is between $3-$5. College students have reported that Flakka doesn’t have the stigma cocaine does either. It’s believed that the cheap designer drug isn’t as bad as cocaine. Millennials are dealing the drug, importing it from China.
Flakka vs. Bath Salts
News outlets have claimed that Flakka is far more dangerous than bath salts. Actually, the two are similar in many ways. The active ingredient is a chemical like cathinone which is a naturally-occurring stimulant known as khat. The leaves of khat have been chewed for centuries because it gives a similar effect to amphetamines.
The stimulant used in bath salts and Flakka are not natural however. They are manufactured, usually synthesized in China. Bath salts is often an umbrella term for a variety of drugs. They will contain either mephedrone, methylone, or MDPV. In 2012, the DEA banned mephedrone and MDPV. In 2013, methylone was banned. Manufactures then changed the structure of the chemical formula. The synthetic substance, which was technically legal was used to make Flakka.
What Causes Addiction To It?
In many ways, Flakka acts the same way cocaine and methamphetamines do in the body. The user experiences an intense high that usually happens quickly and can last for a while. However, once the high wears off and the user begins to come down from it, those euphoric feelings and sensations are replaced by feelings of sadness, depression and loss.
The come down period leads to withdrawal symptoms. This can cause the user to spin into an addictive spiral to avoid the feelings that occur when the drug wears off. Flakka addiction is quite new and not so well documented. Research on rats indicates that the addiction potential is similar to bath salts and meth which are both highly addictive substances. Users will need to take more of the drug to get the same results. It’s clear that people quickly develop a tolerance to it as doctors are seeing the same people come into the ER.
Flakka is similar to cocaine and amphetamines in that it floods the brain with dopamine. This is what regulates the reward system in the brain and governs the pleasure center. Feelings of euphoria are induced which can cause someone to chase these feelings once the drug leaves the body.
How Does It Affect the Body?
When a person abuses Flakka, and they’re continually increasing how much they’re using, the result can be devastating to the body. Horrible anxiety along with periods of paranoia and hallucinations are very common. Physically, Flakka causes many of the same symptoms bath salts do. It can cause a person’s temperature to become very high, which is dangerous. High temperatures can cause damage to the kidneys and can cause a person’s muscles to break down over a short period of time.
Of course, with high temperatures come mental breakdowns and cases of excited delirium. It’s not uncommon for the user to have the sensation of being chased while they are experiencing bouts of psychotic paranoia. One man in Florida disrobed and ran into the street wearing only his sneakers because he claimed he was being chased by people he didn’t know. Similar events have happened to others who were found to be high on Flakka.
Short Term Side Effects of Using Flakka
The effects of Flakka are a lot like amphetamines. The side effects of it are so serious, it doesn’t take long to cause permanent damage. The effects will last for a few hours usually but can sometimes last for days or weeks. A person using it will experience:
- A sense of euphoria.
- An increase in heart rate with palpitations.
- An increase of blood pressure.
- Risky behavior.
- An increase of body temperature, which can cause delirium.
- Muscle tissue damage.
- Increased physical strength.
- Permanent kidney damage.
- Lung damage if inhaled.
- Potentially cardiac arrest, a stroke, or death.
Long Term Effects of Flakka
It is not exactly known what the long term side effects will be as the drug is relatively new to the streets. The effects are haven’t been properly researched. The research that has been conducted shows the drug can be toxic, causing renal failure when used chronically. There are severe side effects that occur in the short term that will be worsened if continued use occurs.
Abusers feel euphoric when they take Flakka. The are sociable and experience stimulating thoughts. Sex drive is increased and they are more focused apparently. Once this feeling wears off, it leaves the user to take more because the come down is so awful. The more it’s taken, the more negative feelings occur during the come down. Tolerance becomes a certain long term effect of the drug which can become an addiction quickly.
Flakka Withdrawal: Dangers, Difficulty and Risks Involved
This drug can kill users the first time they use it. Flakka itself can cause kidney failure, heart attacks, and dangerously high body temperatures. This would explain why people will strip off their clothes. It’s not uncommon for your body temperature to spike to 104 degrees or higher. The high body temperature is what can cause permanent damage to kidneys and even cause death.
Another part of the danger is that a user will hurt themselves due to an intense paranoia and rise in adrenaline. Excited delirium causes hallucinations, paranoia, an increase in strength and hyperstimulation. It can cause depression and people can become suicidal. They may also become psychotic and violent.
Treatment for a Flakka Addiction – Recovery
Doctors in the ER say it’s the worst and fastest drug to catch on. The patients that are coming in due to Flakka overdose have increased exponentially. In the past year, there have been 24 deaths from it. Drug treatment programs are necessary when someone gets hooked on Flakka. Doctors say it’s rare to get help they need. They say that there are a lot of repeat offenders for Flakka overdoses that come to the emergency room.
Flakka rehab treatment will first have to include detox. This will cause withdrawal which is challenging to handle and not recommended to manage on your own. This is why it’s important to seek out professional help. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, and thought of suicide. At Northpoint Recovery, we offer medical supervision, along with psychological counseling. Once you’ve gone through the detox, we offer various types of counseling and cognitive therapy.
The therapy will allow you to explore why you started abusing drugs in the first place. We will help you understand family dynamics and other aspects of your life. The true healing that comes from doing full rehabilitation will prevent future relapse. Have you seen anyone under the influence of Flakka or other similar drugs? If so, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.