Health officials, law enforcers and drug abuse and prevention groups are increasingly concerned about a new synthetic drug gaining in popularity and igniting outlandish and dangerous behavior in users. It has all the markings of the dangerous salt bath drug.
Flakka, which means "gravel," is grabbing traction among drug users in South Florida and derives from alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone, which is also known as the alpha-PVP or a-PVP drug class. While it's not a new drug, given it's been around since the 1960s, it is linked to the bath salt drug class that has proven to be increasingly dangerous and addictive.
Flakka's most well-known victim is Adonis Escoto, who died last year at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami after taking the drug. It's viewed as more lethal and more addictive than meth and cocaine. Not much is known about it in terms of drug addiction and treatment.
Just like bath salt drugs, it's causing the same type of hallucinations and psychotic behavior that have been blamed on the former, warn officials.
Even drug users are apprehensive about it, says Don Maines, a Broward County, Florida Sheriff's Office community programs treatment counselor.
"Longtime addicts who have tried flakka, they're terrified of it. They can't think straight, they're paranoid, they think people are chasing them."
The erratic behavior has included a naked man wanting to fornicate with a tree in Florida and another naked man streaking through the street claiming dogs were chasing him when there were clearly no dogs in sight.
According to media reports, the drug is cheap and easy to get in Florida right now. The worry is it will spread nationwide fast, given how easy and affordable it is for those seeking a new kind of high. It's selling for under $5 a vial, states one report.
The alpha-PVP chemical is being made overseas, according to drug industry experts, and typically sold in a crystal form that is smoked using an e-cigarette device. In addition to being cheap, the drug is odorless, which is also a reason it's becoming popular. It can also be injected, swallowed or snorted.
Recent reports indicate it may already be moving across the country and into Texas, Tennessee and Ohio.