Flakka is a new designer drug that some people are describing as driving users to even more extreme highs than bath salts or crystal meth. Use of the substance is becoming more common in southern Florida. The drug can be swallowed, inhaled, snorted, or smoked.
A naked man, armed with a weapon, was seen on a rooftop shouting at hallucinations while under the effects of the drug. He told police he smoked the drug through an e-cigarette before the event. Another user impaled himself while attempting to scale a fence, while James West attempted to break down the door of a police station, claiming cars were attempting to run over him. Use of the drug can have dangerous consequences for people who ingest the substance.
Excited delirium is a condition caused by the drug in which body temperature can rise to as high as 105 degrees, before highly unusual behavior is seen.
"The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don't receive immediate medical attention they can die," said Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University.
The Khat plant, native to the Middle East and Somolia, is often chewed by people in those regions to produce a mild energetic feeling. The stimulant cathinone present in this plant can also be created in a synthetic form and processed into flakka.
Brains exposed to flakka release large quantities of the hormone dopamine, which assists in control of the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. After the chemical is released from nerves, the drug blocks the center, preventing the re-uptake of the hormone, which would normally regulate the process.
Flakka is in the same family of drugs as bath salts, which have led to a wide range of problems in users of the designer drugs. The name Flakka likely comes from "flaca," the Spanish word for "skinny." As users consume more and more of the drug over time, both the body and the mind can waste away.
Authorities believe the drug is usually manufactured in China before being shipped to small gangs in the United States for retail distribution. The substance is sold under the name gravel in some areas outside Florida, due to its appearance, much like the gravel in aquariums.
"On a scale of one to 10, Flakka is a 12. It comes from a place where we don't know how it's being made, who's making it, and what's been added to it before it reaches the end user so it's very dangerous," Lt. Dan Zsido of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in Florida said.
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