The flakka drug (alpha-PVP) is a synthetic cathinone similar to the street drug bath salts, only stronger. Using this highly addictive drug can cause disorientation, severe hallucinations, and psychotic behavior that can result in injury or death.
In 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration DEA) banned two chemicals used to make synthetic bath salts. In response, illicit drug makers tweaked their formula, and the resulting product was a new synthetic stimulant commonly known as “flakka.”
Synthetic cathinones are derived from the khat plant, native to Africa and the Arabian peninsula. This designer drug is chemically similar to 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), the active ingredient in bath salts. Like other illegal stimulants, the use of alpha-PVP can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening.
Between 2013-2015, flakka use grew to epidemic proportions in low-income neighborhoods in South Florida. People high on cathinone began acting erratically—exhibiting strange behaviors and becoming uncontrollable. These effects have resulted in a number of emergency room visits, overdoses, and deaths.
While the use of alpha-PVP in Florida has mostly disappeared, the dangerous drug continues to devastate the lives of people in other areas of the U.S. A recent study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that nearly 1% of high school seniors reported using flakka. The study was the first to estimate the prevalence of flakka use among adolescents in the United States.
As such, the continued presence of flakka in the market may continue to wreak havoc on the physical and psychological health of users. People who find themselves addicted to the stimulant should seek professional treatment as soon as possible.
Is the Flakka Drug Addictive?
Flakka is indeed considered to be a highly addictive substance. Investigators at The Scripps Research Institute found that the potency and addictiveness of alpha-PVP are similar to those of its chemical cousin, bath salts.
The repeated use of flakka use can produce cravings and result in compulsive drug-seeking behavior in users despite the incurrence of health, social, financial, and legal consequences. When used in excessive doses, alpha-PVP can result in overdose.
The DEA classifies the flakka drug as a Schedule I substance, making it illegal in the United States. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no acceptable medical purpose and a high potential for abuse and addiction.
What Does the Flakka Drug Look Like?
Flakka resembles white or pinkish gravel, salt, sand, or powder. It is said to be rather foul-smelling and can be smoked in a joint or e-cigarette, injected into a vein, or compressed into capsules and consumed orally.
Flakka Drug Effects
Alpha-PVP induces a rush of dopamine in the brain, resulting in an intense high comparable to cocaine and methamphetamine. Flakka use elevates energy, alertness, and mood, but it can also lead to agitated delirium and, in extreme cases, psychiatric hospitalization.
The effects of flakka can include the following:
- Excessive sweating
- Extreme agitation
- Panic attacks
- Slurred speech
- Elevated body temperature
These effects onset within 5-15 minutes after use and can last up to five hours, a timeline that is similar to that of bath salts.
Flakka has sometimes been referred to as the “zombie drug.” People who are high on alpha-PVP may suffer from an altered mental state that is hallmarked by psychosis. The synthetic substance can also produce extraordinary physical strength. In some instances, several police officers have been required to restrain someone high on flakka.
This stimulant can also cause psychological problems in those with no history of a mental health disorder. A study published in the journal Case Reports in Psychiatry (2016) indicated that a teenage girl with no past psychiatric disorders experienced psychotic episodes after using flakka.
Flakka has been mixed with other drugs as well. Many street dealers sell meth or cocaine laced with flakka. Combining flakka with other drugs, especially stimulants, can compound the effects of all substances and rapidly lead to overdose or death.
Treatment for Flakka Intoxication and Addiction
If a person exhibits erratic, bizarre, or harmful behaviors following the use of flakka, call 911 immediately. Do not engage or try to control the individual because he or she may become extremely violent. The person may need to be treated at a psychiatric hospital.
Here, benzodiazepines may be used to reduce agitation and calm the person, and antipsychotics, such as olanzapine, might help relieve the symptoms of drug-induced psychosis. No medications, however, have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat alpha-PVP abuse.
Getting Professional Help
People who abuse flakka are urged to seek professional treatment as soon as possible. Harmony Recovery Center offers evidence-based therapies that can help clients identify the underlying causes of their substance abuse problems. Therapies such as behavioral therapy and counseling can teach patients how to deal with triggers and cravings and prevent relapse long-term.
If you or someone you love is abusing flakka, other drugs, or alcohol, please contact us immediately to discuss treatment options. Find out how we help people free themselves from addiction for the rest of their lives!
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