Remember the bath salt craze that swept the nation a few years ago? Well, many drug users across the country are now partying like it's 2012 all over again, thanks to a potentially fatal and highly dangerous designer drug called Flakka.
Knowledge is Power
Just like bath salts, Flakka is made from the chemical Alpha-PVP, is a synthetic drug which falls under the class of substances called cathinones. These are chemicals derived from the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia. Flakka can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed.
Since it simultaneously fills the brain with dopamine (aka the "feel-good" hormone) and blocks its transmitters, the effects are said to rival that of extremely strong crystal meth or cocaine. These side effects typically last for three to four hours, but can linger for several days afterwards.
Using Flakka or other cathinones can cause rabdomyolysis, which is when muscle tissue melts and the fibers are released into the blood stream, ultimately leading to kidney failure. Flakka also commonly causes severe anxiety and paranoia.
Understanding the Dangers
The biggest issues occur when Flakka is taken in conjunction with other drugs. Dealers often cut or combine the drug with substances like heroin or cocaine, leaving users unaware of exactly what they're taking.
The drug is also used shortly after smoking marijuana. This practice, commonly referred to as "snacking," can spark serious health risks including rapid heart rate, extreme aggression and psychosis.
"We're starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium," said Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University.
"Individuals become psychotic, 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."
Despite the clearly dangerous effects, use of Flakka has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. In fact, The Drug Enforcement Agency had no reported cases involving Flakka in 2010, but that number climbed to 85 in 2012 and 670 in 2014.
When Should You Step in?
If you're concerned that someone you know may be using Flakka, talk with them about the dangers of the drug and other synthetic substances. Let them know that the consequences can be embarrassing at best and fatal at worst. You may also consider holding a group intervention. It's important for them to know that Flakka simply isn't worth the risk.
Learn more about the history and use of designer drugs.
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