A new drug has appeared on the streets, which is being consumed because it is far cheaper than either Meth or Heroin. It is a manufactured drug, and has severe health implications. Ground Zero is currently South Florida. (Just as it was for Pablo Escobar’s cocaine back in the early 80’s). With it’s cheap price, and being relatively unknown to Law Enforcement outside of South Florida, it won’t be long until it moves out to the suburbs and rural America.
The new drug flakka, which comes in the form of pink or white crystals, has grabbed media headlines over the last few months because of the drug’s side effects, which causes users to act in dangerous, even violent, behaviors. But what is flakka and why should we be so worried about it?
Flakka can be snorted, eaten, injected, or vaporized. It is a cousin of “bath salts,” which are an emerging family of drugs containing one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the khat plant. But flakka is considered more addictive. It is also more dangerous than cocaine, and similar to, but cheaper than methamphetamine. Flakka, which gets its name from the Spanish slang for skinny woman, “la flaca,” also goes by the street name gravel.
Flakka’s side effects are concerning. There’s potential for permanent brain and psychological damage, as well as damage to the kidneys. The biggest danger with flakka is its potency. Just 0.003 ounces (0.1 grams) is a typical dose, making it incredibly easy to overdose. Overdosing can lead to symptoms of heart-related problems, violent behavior, spikes in body temperature and paranoia. It can also create feelings of incredible strength; some users even refer to feeling like the Incredible Hulk, which can put the individual into dangerous situations, for example:
A man from Florida stormed the Ft. Lauderdale police station in a panic, kicking and throwing rocks at a storm door, in an attempt to break it down and get inside because he thought he was being chased
A man was impaled by a fence as he tried to run into a Florida police department because he thought he was being pursued. He miraculously lived
Police shot and killed an armed Ft. Lauderdale man who was high on flakka after he took a woman hostage and held a knife to her throat
A teenager ran through the streets naked, covered in blood, yelling that she was Satan
A woman blacked out on a crowded street and abandoned her baby
This past December, 34-year-old Ft. Lauderdale resident Bobby Henry Jr. posted a video titled “Flocka Is Destroying USA” that shows a young woman getting drenched by the rain, apparently oblivious to her surroundings.
“This is what flakka is doing in our hood,” he says in the clip.
Four months later, the common spelling of the drug has changed, but flakka poses no less of a threat — especially among South Florida’s most impoverished residents.
“A lot of people don’t have anything to live for,” Henry told Fusion. “Crack-heads are out and flakka-heads are in.”
WHAT IS FLAKKA?
The drug, which can produce powerful hallucinogenic effects comparable to those produced by bath salts, has garnered national attention in past week or so, with the Drudge Report linking to three different stories on its apparent newfound prevalence. One man was found running naked through the streets of Ft. Lauderdale, and another tried to break into the streets of police headquarters.
But Henry, who says he sees users in front of his custom jewelry office all the time, says it’s actually been around for “a long time,” and that it’s just another synthetic drug like crystal meth that dealers have given a new name to.
“It’s a cheap drug—it’s a cheap, powerful drug,” he said. “It gives them a high they can’t get from smoking weed or cocaine. They don’t have to spend so much money to get a good high.”
WHY IS IT CALLED “FLAKKA?” DOES IT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WAKA FLOCKA FLAME?
There’s no evidence that flakka is named after the Atlanta rapper, but nobody really knows where the name comes from. It could be a variation of “la flaca,” a Spanish slang phrase meaning “skinny girl.” Or it could simply be random.
For what it’s worth, Henry of Ft. Lauderdale says it’s random. “It’s just some crazy name for the way [it] makes you feel,” he says. “There’s no way of telling [where the name came from], they just put a cool name with it, and once it [got] going…today’s youth ran with it.”
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
One of the first online mentions of the drug appears to have been last August, on the blog of a drug treatment center. Even by then, the writer warns that it has begun “causing havoc on the streets in the southern states, especially Florida” thanks to its cheap price. Flakka can be snorted, injected, smoked, or taken orally…
Today, alpha-PVP is manufactured in overseas pharmaceutical plants (Principally in China) and shipped all over the world. It was only declared a controlled substance in January 2014, and only then on an emergency declarationfrom the Justice Department, so large quantities may have been able to make it to the U.S. without too much precaution…
“We have seen it predominantly in the low income areas of the city which are represented by several races and both genders,” he said. “This drug is not used by any specific race or gender, but its effects are quite dangerous to the user.”
WHAT ARE ITS HEALTH EFFECTS?
In a recent presentation on the drug, John Cunha, an emergency-services physician at Holy Cross hospital in Broward County, said that users consider flakka to be the new crack or heroin, echoing Henry’s remarks. He compared the worst-case after effects of the drug to what can happen, in rare instances, to someone who runs a marathon, wherein muscle tissue starts to decompose and break down into the blood stream. That can lead to kidney failure and death.
“[Users] think they’re getting a combination drug that will allow them to find a happy medium,” he said. “They’ll get enough but not too high, and low enough but not too low, so that it balances out. This is the common myth on the street, that this flakka drug is crack and heroin, or crack and meth, or meth and heroin mixed together. Unfortunately it’s neither.”
Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University, told CBS that flakka use leads to a state of “excited delirium.” He added, “The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don’t receive immediate medical attention they can die.”