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New Designer Drug Flakka is Similar to, but Worse than, Bath Salts

Designer drugs can be nasty drugs that make people do nasty things. In addition to the growing popularity of fentanyl and the not-so-popular bath salts, flakka (which has been around since 2014) is now slowly showing up as the culprit in more incidents, and it provides users with the same, if not worse, effects as the bath salts that we stopped hearing so much about.

For instance, back in August, Austin Harrouff, a 19 year-old student from Florida State University, was found by police to be gnawing on the face of a man he had allegedly stabbed to death. Harrouff was shirtless, did not have a criminal record, and could only be subdued by four sheriff’s deputies and a police dog. He ended up in critical condition, fighting for his life on a respirator, due to effects from overdosing on the drug.

The Martin County Sheriff’s office was willing to bet, despite not yet receiving a full toxicology report, that Harrouff had overdosed on flakka (or “gravel”) due to the symptoms he was exhibiting: making animal sounds, taking off his clothes, and showing an abnormal level of strength. Flakka is a synthetic stimulant, and it is an even stronger form of the bath salts that we had heard about a few years prior.

Flakka comes in the form of clear or pink crystals, is highly addictive, and can be consumed in just about every way that you could imagine a drug could be consumed: snorted, injected, smoked, or eaten.

In addition to providing its user with an adrenaline boost that results in a high tolerance for pain and an above-normal level of strength, flakka can also make the user’s body temperature to rise to around 105 degrees, so it’s no surprise that a flakka user would remove their clothes.

Flakka, like heroin, is ridiculously cheap to purchase - about $5 per hit - so its side effects have often been deemed a “$5 psychosis” on the street. The drug causes feelings of euphoria and hallucinations, but even taking just slightly too much of it can result in feelings of aggression, psychosis, and paranoia, as well as cardiac issues and even death. Professionals say that first-time users may not recover from the drug for several days after taking it, and repeat offenders may need as long as two weeks to return to a normal state of mind.

Flakka has turned up in Ohio, Illinois, and Texas, but it has really found its niche in South Florida, where it has been steadily increasing in popularity since 2014. In fact, flakka possession is so bad there that during the first quarter of 2015, police were seizing more flakka than cocaine. Flakka was legal in China up until October of 2015, so dealers of the drug were simply purchasing it online.

Police have been steadily arresting dealers who were importing significant quantities of the drug (also referred to as “Alpha-PVP”) into the U.S., including people living in the Midwest states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and even a college student from New York.