27 May 2015

Flakka: why you should be terrified by this deadly new street drug

The man-made drug 'flakka', which is blamed for the deaths of at least 18 people, is probably the most dangerous since the peak of cocaine, warns an epidemiologist.

"Flakka", which is popularly known as the "$5 insanity drug" and usually sold in a crystal form, is causing havoc in Florida, where it is already blamed for the deaths of 18 people.

The man-made drug flakka is the street name for alpha-Pryrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP) and believed to come from countries like China, Pakistan and India, according to media reports. Flakka, like "bath salts" is also touted to be more dangerous than cocaine. In 2012 "bath salts" were banned after being linked to a naked man who was shot by police while trying to chew the face off another naked man.

Read: 9 most common street drugs

Flakka is a derivative of the Spanish word for a thin woman, reported the Associated Press. It said that the drug, which gives off no odour, can be snorted, injected or swallowed and is popularly used in electronic cigarettes.

A long-lasting high

The drug is highly addictive and the effects can last for 3-4 hours and linger for up to several days.

The New York Times reported that police have been struggling with a string of cases related to the narcotic, which causes agitation, hallucinations and severe paranoia.

In one incident, police killed a 29-year-old who took a woman hostage with a knife to her throat. Other cases include a man trying to break down the door of a police station because he believed he was being chased by a group of people; a woman covered in blood, believing she was satan, running down the street naked; and a man becoming impaled on a fence. (Watch the video clip below to see this)

An epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told the new agency that flakka is more of a poison than a drug. Hall, who has studied the Florida drug market for decades, added that it is likely the worst since the peak of crack cocaine.

Read: 'Bath salts' drugs extremely dangerous

Furthermore, CNN reported him saying that with flakka there is a very thin line between getting high and dying. The broadcaster claimed that flakka can be sold over the internet and is also available through gas stations or other dealers. It said a dose can go for $3 to $5, making it also popularly known as the "$5 insanity drug".

A sense of euphoria and delirium

Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Centre, told WebMD that the inexpensive narcotic gives users a sense of euphoria and delirium. He explained that it alters brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.

The physical side effects include high blood pressure, fast or irregular heartbeat and seizures.

Bernstein added that another dangerous effect is hyperthermia where the body can reach 108 degrees. He said that at this temperature a person starts to bleed internally because blood can no longer clot. This, he warned, can result in multi-organ failure, with lung, liver, kidney and brain injuries.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) there has been a significant rise in reported cases relating to flakka. In 2010 there were zero reported cases, but this jumped to 85 in 2012 and over 670 in 2014, reported Forbes .

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Why are soldiers still taking Lariam?

Heroin overdose deaths in US quadrupled since 2000

Psychosis is five times more likely for dagga smokers

Image: Cocaine from Shutterstock.


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