If you live in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, or New York you’ve probably heard of the devastating, synthetic drug called Flakka. Its effects on users and the innocent nearby can often be deadly, making it one of the worst epidemics ever.

What is Flakka?

Coined as the “Zombie-maker,” Flakka is a synthetic, man-made drug that looks like chunks of white crystals. It can be smoked, injected, or snorted. It gets its name from the Spanish slang “la flacca” meaning “beautiful woman.” Its chemical name is alpha-PVP. Another street name for the substance is “gravel” (because it looks like the rocks at the bottom of a fish tank.) It’s also frighteningly referred to as “$5 Insanity.”
Flakka is stronger than other synthetics such as K2, Molly, or bath salts. And, it’s not completely illegal to sell or buy. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) can place a temporary ban, but until Federal laws are in place, manufacturers can find loopholes. Perhaps on the $5 package purchased at the local gas station, the label may read, “Not for Human Consumption.” But you can still buy it and smoke it or shoot it.

What Does Flakka Do?

If the user is lucky and doesn’t overdose, he can feel a high similar to that of cocaine. It’s cheaper and lasts longer, but the dosages are extremely precarious. No one can say how much a “safe” dosage entails. Flakka lingers in the brain for a long time, which can easily cause damage to the nervous system. Overdoses happen quickly and often.
We have molecules that keep our levels of dopamine and serotonin in check. Those neurohormones regulate our moods. Flakka foils the job of those molecules and allows the brain to become “flooded” with serotonin and dopamine. At first, the high must feel magnificent. But it doesn’t last, and it gets ugly—and extremely dangerous to everyone around, even the innocent sober.
Even a small overdose, which is extremely common, can create a delirium and paranoia. The user often becomes violent. She discovers complete inhibition along with superhuman strength. She also becomes impervious to pain. This is a recipe for creating a community of unstoppable, vicious attackers. It’s already begun.

Flakka’s Damage

South Florida has been hit the hardest by the Flakka epidemic. The number of users spiked in 2015. Last July, there were four or five hospitalizations each day for Flakka overdoses just in Broward County, Florida.
When the user enters the “delirium” state, his body temperature soars, sometimes up to 105 degrees. This is why we will often find users naked because they strip off their clothes hoping to cool down. The high body temperature often leads to permanent kidney damage and/or brain damage.
Because users report seeing and hearing “demons” while they’re high, they often attack other people, without provocation. The Hulk-like strength of users leaves their victims unable to fend for themselves.
It often takes four or five police officers to subdue the hysterics. Even then, it becomes enormously capricious because the user doesn’t feel pain and won’t give up. Law enforcement sometimes needs to implement harsh tactics to get the person under control, just to get them to a hospital.

Horrific Details

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of chronicled and videotaped Flakka episodes. One man stood on a rooftop naked, armed, ready to snipe innocent passersby. Another user tried to break into a Florida police department. Another man shouted in the streets that he was God—after he had sex with a tree in public. And another impaled himself on a fence while running from authorities.
Just this week a fraternity brother at Florida State University, for no obvious reason, stabbed an unwitting couple to death. They were sitting outside their home enjoying a balmy evening. By the time police arrived at the scene the 19-year old was allegedly eating chunks of skin off the dead man’s face. The police taser didn’t deter the student. It took several men and a dog to remove him from the scene. He, too, suffered intense physical trauma as a result of his overdose and grueling arrest.
What’s Next?
Between 2010 and 2015, synthetic drug use, tallied by national crime lab reports, increased 2,000 percent. This year, however, we are seeing a slight decline; perhaps because late last fall, China agreed to make the production of Flakka illegal. Talk to your children, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone you can about the dangers of synthetic drug use. Awareness will be our first line of defense.