Flakka drug is an artificial drug typically made from a manufactured version of an Amphetamine-like stimulant in the cathinone class called Alpha-PVP. Synthetic cathinones are stimulants chemically related to the substance cathinone, which is found in the Khat plant. The plant is grown in Arabia and East Africa, and some people chew the leaves for mild stimulant effects.
Flakka drug is similar to the street drug Bath Salts. A typical street name for Flakka is “Gravel,” because of its appearance. The drug is typically found in crystal form and is white or pink. People with a Flakka addiction are at significant risk of injury and death. Synthetic cathinones like Flakka are part of a group of drugs known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). First emerging in the drug market in the mid-2000s, they have been designed to mimic other illicit drugs such as Cocaine, Ecstasy, and LSD. There are many types of cathinones, such as Mephedrone, Methylone, Methcathinone, Bupropion, and Buphedrone.
Alpha-PVP was first discovered in 1963 and was first patented in 1967 as a Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant. These stimulants are typically used to treat clients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. In 2013, Alpha-PVP became available as a tablet; by 2014, it started gaining popularity under Flakka. Unfortunately, it quickly gained Schedule I status, meaning it has no medical value and a high potential for abuse. 
Causes Of Flakka Drug
Flakka causes “excited delirium,” which involves hyperstimulation, hallucinations, increased strength, and paranoia. These symptoms can lead to self-injury and violent aggression or cause users to have a psychotic episode. Flakka also impacts the body, raising body temperature to 104 degrees (hyperthermia). Users may also experience liver and renal failure, hypertension, narrowing of the blood vessels, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, and death.
Regardless of the method of administering Flakka, there is a high risk of overdose. Reportedly, one of the fastest ways to overdose on Flakka is through vaping because users who vape Flakka cannot measure how much of the substance they are ingesting. In these cases, the drug enters the bloodstream too quickly and overwhelms the body’s systems. The symptoms of a Flakka overdose include heart problems, agitation, aggressive behavior, and psychosis.
Signs And Symptoms Of Flakka Drug Abuse
- Bizarre Behavior
- Delusions of superhuman strength
These bizarre, dangerous, and violent behaviors are directly due to the side effects of the street drug Flakka. Flakka can be smoked, vaped with an e-cigarette, snorted, injected, or swallowed. When heated up, it gives off a foul-smelling smoke characterized as smelling like dirty socks.
Side Effects Of Flakka Drug
Flakka drug is a dangerous substance with many harmful side effects, mainly including changes in behavior or mood. Even slight overdoses of Flakka can cause:
- Elevated Heart Rate
- Extreme Agitation
- Jerking Muscle Movements
- Delirious Thoughts
- Often Profound Paranoia
In some of the documented delusions, individuals’ experiences are typical paranoia, where the drug users feel they are being chased by a large group of people trying to kill them. These clients are a threat to themselves, the people around them, and the first responders (police, EMS) who help them. It is common to hear reports that it takes multiple people to restrain and sedate these clients. Rescue crews and emergency department staff need to give sedatives to these clients to calm them and make them safe.
What’s The Difference Between Flakka And Bath Salts?
The difference between Flakka and Bath Salts is that Flakka lacks a cluster of atoms called the 3,4-methylenedioxy motif. They found that the potential for addiction with Flakka and Bath Salts was almost equal. Bath Salts have the same effects as Flakka, such as increased sex drive, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, and increased sociability. However, smoking, snorting, injecting, or swallowing Bath Salts can lead to overdose and death. Flakka and Bath Salts are packaged and sold similarly, labeled as “not for human consumption,” and dealt with seemingly innocuous names like “plant food” or “jewelry cleaner.” 
Dangers Of A Flakka Drug Addiction
In 2011, synthetic cathinones were involved in over 20,000 emergency department visits. The public fear of Bath Salts started in 2012 when a Miami man stripped naked and ate another man’s face in broad daylight. When police ordered him to stop eating the man’s face, he growled like an animal, and the officer was forced to shoot the attacker; it took four bullets to stop him finally. This was when people started referring to Flakka and Bath Salts as “Zombie Drugs” because of the way they affect users, causing them to lose touch with reality and try to eat other people. This trend started in Florida but is slowly spreading throughout the rest of the country.
With all of the negative consequences of using Flakka, it is hard to imagine why someone would put themselves at risk by choosing this drug. Affordability is one of the main factors. A gram of Cocaine can cost up to $80, and many people — especially young adults, the homeless, and low-income populations — cannot afford an expensive drug habit. On average, a hit of Flakka costs $3 to $5. The drug is cheap, obtainable, and the high is long and intense.
The high from snorting Cocaine lasts up to 30 minutes, and the high from smoking lasts up to 10 minutes. The high from Flakka can last up to 5 hours. Flakka causes unpredictable effects because its components can be a variety of harmful ingredients. Flakka is reported to be at least ten times stronger than Cocaine. Some combinations of Flakka produce dissociative symptoms seen in ketamine or other sedatives, such as benzodiazepines.
Flakka acts as a stimulant when taken in small doses and can make users feel euphoric and more alert. However, it can also produce hallucinatory effects in some users. High doses of Flakka can mimic the effects of Cocaine and Meth, which can cause twitching, delusions, and even seizures.
Synthetic cathinones are addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, paranoia, depression, and sleeping issues. In animal studies, researchers found that rats became addicted to the Flakka drug and would press a lever to deliver the drug as many times as possible. Rats also were more addicted to synthetic cathinones than to crystal meth. Co-senior author of the study, Associate Professor Tobin J. Dickerson of Scripps Research, said that “Animals will self-administer MDPV like no drug I have ever seen.” Therefore, Flakka is dangerous and addictive, and users should seek out professional treatment if they have used the drug.
Complications Of Flakka Drug Use
Some complications of Flakka drug abuse can happen while the drug user is acutely agitated if they were to harm themselves or others; however, medically, the severe consequences of the agitation caused by the drug appear later. Nervous clients can go into a state called “excited delirium,” which is a medical emergency. In the excited delirium state, restrained clients struggle to free themselves, scream, flail, and even have seizures. This struggling causes a high core body temperature called hyperthermia. The combination of a high body temperature and extreme muscle overactivity can cause other metabolic problems to happen in the body.
Muscle tissue begins to break down, releasing proteins and other cellular products into the bloodstream in a process called rhabdomyolysis. Intense struggle can also cause dehydration. The result of the cellular products and proteins released during rhabdomyolysis and dehydration can impair the kidneys’ filtering function, leading to renal failure and death. In addition, such agitation may trigger Taser use or other methods that can harm the individual when law enforcement personnel have to intervene.
Individuals with Flakka overdose were isolated to a few geographic regions of the country. The epicenter of the Flakka epidemic was Broward County, Florida, which includes Fort Lauderdale. Since 2016, Flakka has been reported very sporadically. Law enforcement and community activists were instrumental in limiting the damage done by the drug’s dangerous effects. Most reports of Flakka after 2016 turned out to be other similar chemicals in the bath salt family.
Withdrawal And Flakka Addiction Treatment
Treatment for Flakka addiction includes several steps that are beneficial in streamlining the recovery process.
- Intake Procedures: A thorough physical and psychological assessment is taken. Evaluation by qualified addiction treatment professionals will ensure that proper detox measures and the most effective treatment design are applied to each situation.
- Detoxification: Commonly, the first phase of treatment is detox. However, withdrawal can be excruciating and uncomfortable, and it is essential to be under medical supervision so that symptoms are monitored and managed.
- Adjunct Therapy: These are various behavioral therapies may be offered, including:
- Dual Diagnosis Counseling (if appropriate)
- Motivational Interviewing
- Support Groups
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Family Participation: Since being cut off from loved ones may be of particular concern for an individual, incorporating the participation of family members is often implemented in treatment.
If you or someone you know has a Flakka addiction, contact a treatment provider today. Flakka drug is a dangerous drug and may result in users hurting themselves and hurting others as well. At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing support through flakka drugs and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
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