Could public awareness programs and effective drug treatment be playing a part in the decline of Flakka in Florida? This is the conclusion authorities in Broward county are coming to as emergency room visits and Flakka related deaths come to what feels like a screeching halt in South Florida and other parts of the country.
Flakka is a dangerous designer drug whose popularity exploded on the streets of Florida between 2014 and 2015. It was also listed as an emerging drug trend by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) who described it as a synthetic cathinone also known as alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PDP). NIDA scientist explain that Flakka is typically made chemical alpha-PVP. Flakka began to usurp cocaine’s longstanding position in Florida when Chinese companies began a sweeping online ad campaign about its potency and relatively cheap costs. Before long, large quantities were being shipped to United States to meet the growing demand.
According to reports, between September 2014 and December 2015, Flakka was responsible for at least three or four emergency room visits a day, 50 admissions into drug treatment programs each month and sixty-three deaths. The surge in use of this drug in just fifteen months was attributed to the effects that Flakka users said were similar to cocaine but more potent for a drug that was much cheaper than anything else being sold on the street. Law enforcement who were called to incidents involving the use of this drug reported bizarre, mostly violent behavior that they often reported as bordering on insanity. Since 2016 however, only six people were admitted into Treatment centers in Broward County, Florida, in the entire month of January and there has been no Flakka related deaths.
According to Jim Hall, a drug abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, this dramatic decline of Flakka in Florida occurred after the local United Way put together a team comprised of community leaders, paramedics and mental health counselors to address the problem. Together they implemented a public awareness program that included nightly town hall meetings to educate the public about the dangers of Flakka, and disseminate information about drug treatment programs and other resources where Flakka users could get help. I’ve never seen a community come together so unified and focused on a specific drug problem as Broward County did with flakka,” Hall said in a CNN interview.
However, as commendable as the United Way public awareness programs have been they represent only a part of the answer to the reason for the sudden and steep fall-off of this popular substance of abuse. Pressure from Europe and the United States prompt the Chinese government to impose a ban on the production and exportation of alpha-PVP a key ingredient in Flakka. The ban that went into effect on October 1, 2015 correlate to the drastic decline in the use and availability this drug on the streets of Florida and other areas across the country. Not surprisingly, law enforcement and the public endangered by the use of Flakka are celebrating this small reprieve. However, experts like Michael H. Baumann, NIDA Director of the Intramural and Designer Drug Research Unit caution that it may only be temporary win. According to Baumann, the unintended consequences of drug bans historically leads to an explosion of new replacement drugs. In the meantime, the United Way Flakka Action Team have reportedly dropped “Flakka” from its name. but with Flakka still a painful memory, they have turned their focus on helping to minimize the negative effects of other substances of abuse that continue to be a plague on society.
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