New Designer Drug Flakka Works Like ‘Bath Salts,’ Causes 'Excited Delirium'

The new designer drug “flakka” has brought national attention to South Florida; however, the active ingredient has been detected by crime labs across the country. The drug has popped up in Texas and Ohio, as well. Use of the drug, which can be snorted, smoked, injected, and swallowed, has been linked with serious — and sometimes deadly — behavioral problems.

The drug also goes by the name "gravel" because it looks like the colorful gravel pebbles you'd use to decorate the bottom of an aquarium.

Regardless of what dealers claim it to be, its chemical name is alpha-PVP which is a synthetic cathinone found in so called “bath salts”.

In 2014, there were 2,720 cases of alpha-PVP detected in crime labs across the country including 576 in South Florida.

The drug has gotten considerable media attention lately because of some bizarre incidences of people high on flakka. As was reported by CBS News, in Fort Lauderdale last month, a man tried to break down the front door of a local precinct and told police officers he was high on flakka. In Lake Worth, a city in Palm Beach County, a man armed with a gun -- and naked -- stood on a rooftop and announced, "I feel delusional, and I'm hallucinating!"

“It is cheap for dealers to buy and thus more profitable to sell. Thus we have entered the era of “Guinea Pig” drugs where the user is like laboratory rats; some get high, others get very sick, most become addicted, others go crazy, and some die. They are guinea pigs because they don’t know what they are taking or what is the potency of the drug or poison they are consuming. Frequently the dealer doesn’t even know what he is selling,” said James N. Hall, Epidemiologist, Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities, Nova Southeastern University.

The effects of flakka are very dose specific, Hall told CADCA.

“The difference between a little bit and just a little bit more can produce serious adverse effects such as heart problems, agitation, aggression, psychosis, and in some case a life threating syndrome known as ‘excited delirium,’” Hall said.

That occurs when body temperature increases to 105 degrees, the person strips off clothes, runs outside acting violently, paranoid, very aggressive with adrenaline-like strength.

Police respond often requiring four or five officers to restrain the user. Once restrained, if he or she does not receive immediate medical attention, they can die, Hall said.

The alpha-PVP synthetic amphetamine stimulant is now even being sold as cocaine or crack in South Florida, Hall said.

Barbara Carreno, a spokesperson from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said alpha-PVP is currently illegal. It’s one of 10 synthetic cathinones that the DEA controlled a year ago. However, teens and young adults can still get their hands on these drugs and too often they don’t realize that these products contain other ingredients.

“Users have no idea what is in these substances they are offered, so they are playing Russian Roulette with their sanity and future when they use these synthetic drugs,” Carreno explained. “You don’t know what contaminants, what it’s cut with, what adulterants are in them. When we send samples to our labs, you don’t find the same things from one package to the next or even from within one brand.”

That’s why, she said, prevention is critical. “Informing kids, knowing who their friends are and spending time with their children, all of these things are so important.”

Have you seen evidence of flakka use in your community? Let CADCA know on our Facebook page.