Flakka is a drug that fits into the stimulant category. The most active compound found in flakka is alpha-PVP. This substance is close in chemical structure to cathinone, which is the main ingredient in the designer drug, “bath salts.” Drugs that produce effects similar to flakka include cocaine, meth and bath salts.
Flakka gets its name from the slang term “la flaca,” which Spanish for, ‘beautiful woman.’ Other terms include “$5 insanity,” magic and gravel. The drug was once sold on the street for $3 to $5, but now flakka prices are soaring as demand increases. When a person takes flakka, high levels of dopamine and serotonin chemicals are released in the brain. This results in the feeling of euphoria which can last up to several hours. Flakka’s effects are longer-lasting than the stimulant, methamphetamine.
In 2014, the Justice Department issued a temporary ban on the alpha-PVP used to create flakka. However, drug manufacturers continue to produce the drug illegally, and have even added components that many users are unaware of. Another method manufacturers use to get around the ban, is by placing the sticker, “not for human consumption,” on the drug’s packaging. However, many users still continue to abuse flakka.
Flakka is also referred to as “gravel,” due to its small, pebble-like appearance that closely resembles aquarium gravel. Flakka is usually white in color. Those who abuse the drug may inject, smoke, snort or swallow it. It may be mixed with food or consumed with a beverage. Injecting the drug can cause the most harm because it is often combined or cut with other harmful substances, such as talc and dirt.
In order to acquire the drug, manufacturers order the necessary chemicals from China or India which are then shipped to the U.S. This makes flakka difficult to regulate, as the chemicals are often labeled as use for plant fertilizer, shampoo and insect repellants.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), flakka use has increased by 780 percent from 2012 to 2015. In 2010, there were no cases involving the abuse of flakka, but in 2014, an estimated 670 cases were reported. Florida seems to have been that state that was hit the hardest, with hospitals reporting three to four flakka-related hospitalizations per week, according to CNN.com. There have been many flakka related cases reported in states like New Jersey, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama.
Using flakka has been known to cause episodes of violent and bizarre behavior. In Kentucky, police reported of one incident where a man drove nails through a window because he was hallucinating that a man was trying to get into his home. Instances of delusions and paranoia are also commonly reported, according to “USA Today.”
Although the drug has serious and potentially dangerous side effects, the intense high associated with the use of flakka has resulted in a powerful addiction.
When a person takes flakka, he or she may experience:
Reports revealed that some flakka users have experienced body temperatures greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, causing bleeding and organ damage, which is proven to be deadly. If a person survives a flakka episode that results in hyperthermia, the damage endured by the kidneys may require them to be on dialysis for a lifetime. Flakka also makes a person believe they have superior strength, which can result in injury to themselves and potentially to others.
While flakka is a fairly new drug, researchers have determined that its’ effects on the brain can lead to permanent damage to the neurons responsible for communication and thinking. It can lead to changed in heat rate, heart attack, hypertension, and even death.
The physical effects of flakka use can be treated through the use of benzodiazepines, which help to reverse the agitation and abnormal behavior. If the person’s heart has been affected by drug use, medical staff at a certified rehab center can prescribe and administer appropriate medication to help normalize blood pressure and heart rate.
Due to the severe nature of the drug’s effects, it strongly advised that individuals suffering with this addiction, seek professional help to detox. After the detox period, patients will undergo therapy in an inpatient or outpatient setting to help them address the underlying causes of addiction and learn new coping methods for dealing with cravings that derive from the use of flakka. This may consist of individual and group counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and contingency management therapy, which is based on incentives designed to promote a drug-free lifestyle.
Due to the fact that flakka has not been around long, there is very little knowledge about the long-term relapse rates. However, participating in support groups and ongoing addiction aftercare programs can generally help an individual remain sober.
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