What's in this article?
What is Flakka
Use of a dangerous synthetic cathinone drug called alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP), popularly known as “Flakka,” is surging in Florida and is also being reported in other parts of the country, according to news reports.
Alpha-PVP is chemically similar to other synthetic cathinone drugs popularly called “bath salts” and takes the form of a white or pink, foul-smelling crystal that can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized in an e-cigarette or similar device. Vaporizing, which sends the drug very quickly into the bloodstream, may make it particularly easy to overdose. Like other drugs of this type, alpha-PVP can cause a condition called “excited delirium” that involves hyperstimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations that can lead to violent aggression and self-injury. The drug has been linked to deaths by suicide as well as heart attack. It can also dangerously raise body temperature and lead to kidney damage or kidney failure.
Flakka is made of:
- Flakka is made from a compound called alpha-PVP, a chemical cousin of cathinone, the amphetamine-like drug found in bath salts.
- Here’s the worst part: While the active ingredient in bath salts was officially banned in 2011, its newer relative, alpha-PVP, was not.
- That means it is legal in any state without its own ban.
Is Flakka Harmful?
Flakka is a street drug with origins in South Florida. One of the newer chemicals in the booming category of synthetic or designer drugs, Flakka is typically made from a synthetic version of an amphetamine-like stimulant in the cathinone class called alpha-PVP.
Cathinones are chemicals derived from the khat plant originating in the Middle East and Somalia where the leaves are frequently chewed for a euphoric buzz.
People who use Flakka can display cases of bizarre and uncontrollable behavior.
Though Flakka is a relatively new synthetic drug, data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown it to be as potent as methamphetamine, yet with an even higher propensity for addiction development in those who abuse it.
Why are we hearing so much about flakka now?
Like synthetic marijuana in New York City, flakka emerged in public consciousness in 2015 after a viral video on YouTube, titled “Flocka [sic] is Destroying USA”, depicted a young woman dancing in the rain. Since then, other videos showing people with erratic behaviour were soon attributed to the drug. However, none of these videos actually show people taking the drug.
The drug’s similarity to bath salts reinforced the media speculation that they would give somebody “superhuman strength” an unconfirmed side effect critics say was used to justify forceful arrests.
Why is flakka dangerous?
Flakka is known to spike your body temperature up to 104 degrees, if not higher. An extremely high body temperature can have dire consequences – it can lead to kidney damage or kidney failure, and even death. The synthetic drug can also elevate your blood pressure, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, or heart failure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Short-Term Effects of Flakka
Similar to other stimulants, Flakka use results in a flood of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Additionally, Flakka hinders the reuptake of this neurotransmitter by the brain cells, producing an intense feeling of euphoria.
Similar to cocaine and amphetamines, short term effects include:
- Euphoric sensations.
- Rapid heart rate and palpitations.
- Increase in 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.
At high doses, Flakka can affect the body’s temperature; it will reach high temperatures and sometimes this extreme change can lead to muscle breakdown and subsequent kidney damage.
The immediate and long-term effects of Flakka can rival some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine.
Long-Term Effects of Flakka
Long-term effects are not yet published. Flakka is one of the more recent synthetic drugs and research into its effects isn’t extensive. However, research that has been conducted has shown that the drug can be toxic to the kidneys and cause renal failure.
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.
The following video brings attention to the serious dangers of Flakka use, even for first-time users.
How brutal are flakka’s side effects?
People who use flakka will at first feel euphoric, highly sociable, stimulated, more focused and have an increased sex drive, said Cidambi. But the anticipated high will wear off quickly, leaving users to up their flakka intake. And the more someone abuses the designer drug, the more they will begin to feel the negative side effects. Flakka users will experience what the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls “excited delirium” a debated condition involving hallucinations, paranoia, increased strength and hyperstimulation.
Your heart will race. You will have panic attacks. Your sex drive will plummet. You may become depressed and suicidal. And like Harrouff, you could become extremely psychotic and violent. “It’s easy to get there, though, As you crash you’re going to feel all the withdrawal you want to not feel … unfortunately it’s their tolerance that pushes them to the other side.” Vaping with flakka will make you feel these effects far quicker than any other method because the drug goes straight in your blood stream that could easily lead to an overdose.