Findings of a new study have found that nearly one percent of high school seniors in the United States have used Flakka, a highly potent and dangerous synthetic drug.
Young Users Of Flakka Tend To Live Away From Parents
In the research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence on Jan. 29, researchers analyzed data from Monitoring the Future, an annual survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan that tracks drug use among high school students.
Less than 1 percent of high school seniors reported using Flakka in the previous year. Of those who used the drug, 19.2 percent said they used the drug more than 40 times.
Researchers also found those who used Flakka knowingly tend to live away from their parents and have used other drugs.
"Students who use multiple drugs are elevated risk for Flakka use," study researcher Joseph Palamar, from NYU Langone, and colleagues wrote in their study. "Socio-economic disparities are concerning given reduced access to prevention and intervention."
Flakka belongs to a group of psychoactive substances called synthetic cathinones or bath salts, which have been linked to thousands of emergency department visits in the United States.
From September 2014 to December 2015, Flakka has been associated with at least 80 deaths in Florida alone.
The drug comes in crystalline rock form and can be eaten, injected, vaped or snorted. Flakka produces cocaine-like stimulant effects and is as potent as methamphetamine. Adverse effects include elevated body temperature, seizures, anxiety, agitation, rapid heart rate, aggression, paranoia, hallucinations, and suicidality.
Palamar said the drug is associated with bizarre behaviors earning it the infamous names "zombie" and "cannibal" drug.
A Florida teen high on Flakka ran toward police officer nude and screaming "I am God" and "I am Satan." A 26-year-old man was charged with second-degree murder after he had attacked and injured an 82-year-old woman while he was high on the drug.
"What really stands out about flakka is the wacky behavior that is sometimes associated with its use," Palamar said. "It is bizarre, and you will see that word, even in medical journals, because there is no other way to describe it."
Palamar said chronic use of the drug can lead to death from accidents, suicides, heart attacks and homicides.