Flakka: What Is It?

Flakka: What Is It?

If it seems like people are always looking for new ways to get high, your perception is correct. Somewhere, someone is trying something to get high. The latest discovery is a synthetic drug called “flakka”, which made its media debut in April 2015. This drug is entering North America in Florida and it is coming from countries like Pakistan, India, and China. People who have been trying flakka are ending up in emergency rooms and police stations.

Flakka is also called “gravel” because it looks like it is made of small crystalline pebbles and it smells horrible. It is made from a khat plant which produces a stimulant that behaves like an amphetamine. In Pakistan, India, and China, some people actually use the leaves of the khat plant as a chew to get a high. This is similar to the people in South America who chew on coca plant. Alpha-PVP is the active ingredient that causes the high in flakka. In 2014, the DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Agency) banned alpha-PVP, but the substance is still used all over the country. In the southern Florida county of Broward, alpha-PVP was involved in nearly 200 cases in 2014. But, in the first quarter of 2015, over 300 cases were filed in that same county. Many of them had to do with flakka.

Users can vape, smoke, inject, swallow, or inhale the drug. Since it can be vaped, it is easy to take the drug in public. Most people have no idea what flakka is, so no one thinks twice about it.

When flakka enters the body it immediately attacks the central nervous system. It works by blocking the re-uptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine. By blocking the absorption of those brain chemicals, the brain becomes flooded which causes extreme pleasure. Amphetamine drug users experience relatively the same high.

But, like all drugs, flakka does not last. Users only need to take a small amount of flakka to get high and since the drug is inexpensive, it is easy for users to get. The drug increases the heart rate and causes heart palpitations. Users also experience shortness of breath and they get extremely excited. The sense of euphoria increases, too. After a short time, the euphoria ends because the brain begins to hallucinate from the excess dopamine and norepinephrine. Physically, the body temperature increases, as some users experience a body temperature spike of up to 41 degrees Celsius. As a result, many users take off all of their clothes and often in public! People have been arrested for being naked in public and then found to be using flakka.

As the body tries to maintain homeostasis, the user experiences an adrenaline rush, which causes violent and agitated outbreaks. They also experience the super-human strength that often comes with adrenaline rushes which is why many arrests require several officers to restrain a user. Because of the hallucinations, users experience paranoia, too. They are quite dangerous to people around them.

Because of the strength and cost of flakka, it is a dangerous drug to have on the streets. Most users only need one tenth of a gram to trigger a high. The cost is usually around $5 per use. The low price and the low dosage means that many users try more than they should. The dosage increase affects the brain by creating an excited delirium that includes agitation and excitement; this effect lasts longer as the doses get higher.

The other danger is due to the increased body temperature and the effect on muscle tissue. High body heat breaks down this tissue which is sent into the bloodstream. This then causes kidney failure. Some people have heart attacks as a result of the increased body temperature from using flakka. No one develops a tolerance to the drug, so it is easy to overdose at any time.

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