In Spanish, the word flake is a term of endearment for a thin person. When I was a teenager, my friend’s Colombian father used to call me “flakita”. But the word Flakka is anything but that. It’s the street name for a new designer drug that is highly addictive and extremely dangerous.
Flakka is a synthetic, amphetamine-like concoction containing alpha-PVP, which has a similar chemical makeup to drugs known as “bath salts”. It is typically a white or pink crystalline, foul-smelling substance. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it can be eaten, snorted, injected or vaporized in an electronic cigarette device (which pushes it into the bloodstream more quickly). If used in an e-cigarette, it can also be concealed while being used in public.
The drug can cause a condition called “excited delirium” which manifests in hyper-stimulation, paranoia and hallucinations that can lead to violent aggression and self-injury. One man in Florida disfigured another man’s face while high on the drug, and another impaled himself while climbing a fence in a fit of paranoia. During such a state of delirium, body temperature can rapidly elevate to as high as 105-106 degrees Fahrenheit, setting off a series of physical reactions that could lead to kidney damage and failure. Flakka has been linked to deaths by suicide as well as heart attack, and its effects can last anywhere from 3-4 hours to several days or even months.
Use of this drug is on the rise and, while reports have come primarily from Florida, Texas and Ohio, it is slowly emerging in other states as well. Authorities say that Flakka is easily accessible and can be purchased online from China. Is some parts of the country, it has replaced the use of crack cocaine.
In 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified alpha-PVP as a “Schedule 1” drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse, is considered unsafe for use under medical supervision, and currently has no accepted uses for treatment in the U.S. According to the DEA, Flakka cases have grown from no reported cases in 2010 to 670 cases in 2014. Unfortunately, since underground drug suppliers realize that bans imposed by the DEA are a recurring issue, they are deft at making new versions of those banned drugs.
Flakka is highly addictive and can easily lead to overdose. Further, the effects on its users can be disturbing and downright terrifying. People on Flakka can exhibit super-human strength and be almost impossible to control. In fact, police officers in Fort Lauderdale receive special training to deal with these cases, as it can take up to four officers to restrain someone in the midst of a Flakka high.
As is the case with many drugs, knowledge is the first order of defense. Make sure your kids know what Flakka is, the danger it poses and, most importantly, to steer clear of it and report anyone who shows red flag behaviors that could indicate its use.