What is Flakka?
Flakka (α-pyrrolidopentadione/α(alpha)-PVP) is a synthetic, or designer street drug often called bath salts. Also called the devil’s drug, gravel and zombie drug, flakka is a cathinone stimulant mixed with a variety of other substances or used by itself. The drug is often mixed with other substances as the active ingredient in drugs sold as bath salts, a kind of recreational drug that possesses one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, a stimulant similar to amphetamines that is found in the plant khat.
People using flakka are usually trying to experience a high or energetic feeling. Some users report a sense of euphoria. There have been reports that flakka causes hallucinations and unusual behavior, such as running naked through streets or committing acts of violence. Flakka can be swallowed, injected, snorted or smoked.
Flakka and Cathinones
Synthetic cathinones had been an almost-forgotten class of drugs for many years until the late 2000s, when European clandestine chemists began to rediscover the drug class and the recreational usefulness of the drugs. Mephedrone was the first synthetic cathinone sold widely on the streets in late 2009, with law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom reporting 188 calls about the drug around that time. In the US, the DEA banned flakka through a temporary order in 2014 that has since been extended. It’s currently not scheduled aside from being banned on a federal level in the US, but it’s scheduled as Schedule I on a state-level basis in at least five states. In 2015, 105 people died from fatal use of flakka.
The price of flakka has hovered around $5 per dose since it first appeared on the streets in 2014. Law enforcement agencies have only really begun to take it seriously in recent years due to an explosion of supply on the market.
Adverse Effects of Flakka Use
Flakka can be taken orally, smoked, snorted, and vaporized in e-cigarette devices. The drug has some adverse effects, some of which have sent users to the emergency room. These include mania, tachycardia, and hallucinations. Users can become more anxious and aggressive after using synthetic cathinones, with high rates of aggression becoming apparent at doses exceeding 70 ng/mL. Other effects include:
- Sympathomimetic toxicity
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Severe peripheral organ damage
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