What is Flakka?
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 at all the case.
The active ingredient in Flakka is alpha-PVP, or alpha Pyrrolidinopentiophenone, a chemical compound manufactured overseas for pharmaceutical purposes. Alpha-PVP is derived from the khant plant, which grows in areas of the middle East including Somalia. It works as a neuroinhibitor, blocking signals in the brain that regulate the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals respectively responsible for feelings of pleasure and excitement of the “fight or flight” instinct. Flakka users report experiencing feelings of euphoria, heightened senses, increase in focus and breathing rates, and vasoconstriction.
How Dangerous is Flakka?
Until recently, alpha-PVP was freely traded and unregulated. When drugs such as Flakka and “bath salts” began to circulate and the odd behavior caused by their effects drew notice, the dangers of the compound and its concocted by-products became apparent. Flakka reports increased exponentially and the Justice Department took action- In January 2014 alpha-PVP was declared a controlled substance by the Justice Department, 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, through snorting, injected or ingested. It is commonly smoked through vaporization via e-cigarettes or ingested in a “rock candy” or “gummy bear” form. Because of this versatility, Flakka use and transportation is difficult to track, though pure forms can be detected by its unpleasant odor. Physical symptoms of flakka such as excessive sweating, hyperventilation, and increased heart rate pose health risks and cause lasting damage to the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Due to alpha-PVP’s nature as a neuroinhibitor, it is incredibly difficult to measure dosages properly. This leads to an increased chance of flakka overdose, which can result in cardiac arrest, seizures, and ultimately death.
Is Flakka Addictive?
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 dependant on the substance as it lowers the body’s natural levels of essential hormones and changes the chemical composition of the brain. Psychological dependence sets in when users seek an escape the stress and emotional trials of life through the hallucinations and pleasure of highs.
Other Nicknames for Flakka
The most common form of Flakka is in clear or pink crystallized form, giving it the additional 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.