Flakka is a synthetic cathinone, a type of designer drug manufactured in laboratories. It is a fairly new substance, making its first appearances in 2012 as a stronger alternative to ecstasy. Flakka was created in response to increasing laws against the manufacturing of other designer drugs such as bath salts, LSD, and PCP. Many users mistakenly believe flakka is a combination of methamphetamine and crack cocaine or heroin; this is not the case.
The most common form of flakka is in clear or pink crystallized form, giving it the nickname of “gravel,” due to the resemblance to aquarium pebbles. Flakka is also known as “$5 Insanity” due to its cheap street cost and powerful effects. It is believed the name “flakka” itself is taken from the spanish word “flaco,” meaning skinny.
The active ingredient in flakka is alpha pyrrolidinopentiophenone, or alpha-PVP — a chemical compound manufactured overseas for pharmaceutical purposes. Alpha-PVP is derived from the khat plant, which grows in areas of the Middle East. It works as a neuroinhibitor, blocking signals in the brain that regulate the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, the chemicals responsible for feelings of pleasure and the excitement of the “fight or flight” impulse. Flakka users report experiencing feelings of euphoria, heightened senses, increased focus and breathing rate, and vasoconstriction.
Until recently, alpha-PVP was freely traded and unregulated. When drugs such as flakka and bath salts began to circulate, the odd behavior caused by their effects drew notice — and the dangers of the compound became apparent.
Reports of flakka increased exponentially and the Justice Department took action. In January 2014, alpha-PVP was declared a controlled substance, requiring its transportation to be monitored and regulated by the FDA. The exact amount of alpha-PVP traded and sold into the black market before the change in regulation could not be calculated.
Flakka can be administered orally, snorted, injected or ingested. It is commonly smoked through vaporization via e-cigarettes or ingested in a candy or gummy form. Because of this versatility, Flakka use and transportation is difficult to track, though the pure form can be detected by its unpleasant odor.
Physical symptoms of flakka include excessive sweating, hyperventilation, and increased heart rate. These pose health risks and cause lasting damage to the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Due to the nature of alpha-PVP as a neuroinhibitor, it is especially difficult to measure dosages properly. This challenge leads to an increased chance of flakka overdose, which can result in cardiac arrest, seizures, and ultimately death.
Because of the low cost and accessibility, Flakka is especially popular in low-income areas. Broward County, specifically Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has the highest rates of flakka-related reports in the country — with an average of 100 cases per month. Users become physically dependent on the substance as it lowers the body’s natural levels of essential hormones and changes the chemical composition of the brain.
The DEA named flakka a Schedule I substance, considered the most dangerous and highly addictive. Flakka can cause overdose quickly because it lingers much longer in the brain, causing damage to the nervous system and reducing tolerance. Flakka overdoses have pushed Florida to the 11th state in the US for overdose deaths.
The bizarre and sometimes self-destructive actions of someone under the influence of flakka are a result of excited delirium, a symptom caused by overdose. People suffering from excited delirium are no longer in touch with reality or aware of their environment.
Witnesses of Flakka abuse and overdosing also report excessive sweating. This is a reaction to increased internal body temperature, which can reach as high as 106 degrees. At this point, the heat begins to cause muscle fibers to dissolve into the bloodstream, damaging the liver and kidneys. The overdose experiences severe muscle cramps and spasms, as well as difficulty breathing and heart problems. Extreme reactions involve seizures and cardiac arrest or stroke.
It’s possible to prevent overdose by identifying the symptoms of flakka addiction before the condition worsens.
Because of the danger of flakka dependency and addiction, we highly recommended those attempting to begin recovery do so with the assistance of a drug rehabilitation center. Getting sober as soon as possible reduces the damage caused by prolonged flakka abuse, as well as the likelihood of overdosing.
Like other stimulants, flakka’s withdrawal comes from its physical and psychological effects. Symptoms like extreme irritability, mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts and actions are common. Accidental and intentional suicide are leading causes of death among flakka users. Delusions may persist throughout the drug detox process, which makes it essential to monitor flakka-addicted clients 24/7. Flakka also causes insomnia, anxiety and fatigue, especially in those with extensive damage to the neurotransmitters processing dopamine and norepinephrine. Mental disorders such as psychosis may develop due to flakka-related chemical imbalances.
Because of physical damage caused by flakka abuse, recovering addicts may also suffer from medical conditions such as epileptic seizures, liver and lung damage, permanent kidney damage, and heart arrhythmias. These conditions are manageable if detected early and may disappear with time and medical treatment.
Harbor Village is equipped to assist you in ending your addiction to flakka. We offer a variety of program options and personalized care to ensure you leave the program with the skills necessary to lead a sober and fulfilling life. Please call us today.