Recently a woman covered in blood ran naked down the streets of Melbourne, Orlando. She ran towards the police screaming "I am Satan!" In a separate incident, a man ran naked through another Florida neighborhood and tried to have sex with a tree before confessing to the police that he was Thor, the Norse mythical god. Another incident saw a man being impaled on a fence before being cut free by firefighters.
This is just the latest in a series of bizarre cases linked to the use of the street drug flakka. Florida seems to be the hardest hit by this new craze; with flakka already implicated in 18 deaths within the Sunshine State.
Flakka is commonly referred to as "gravel" and is readily available for as low as five dollars per dose. It is the latest in the series of synthetic drugs to hit the streets since ecstasy and "bath salts," a group of manmade drugs that were banded in 2012.
Flakka is typically made from the chemical alpha-Pryrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha - PVP), a synthetic version of cathinone. These chemicals are derived from the kath plant, which is known to be grown in the Middle East and Somalia. The effects, both immediate and long term, of cathinones can far outweigh that of crystal meth and cocaine.
Flakka increases dopamine, which is the pleasure chemical, and other neurotransmitters that make us more alert and euphoric. However, side effects include, but are not limited to: agitation, extreme aggression, psychosis, rapid heart rate, severe hallucination and even death.
Flakka is thought to be produced in China, Pakistan, and India, and sold online to small-time drug gangs and the homeless in the United States.
Jim Hall, a drug epidemiologist based at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida said that what complicates the problem even more in making flakka so dangerous is that the dosage is extremely hard to control. He said: "Just a little bit of difference in how much is consumed can be the difference between getting high and dying. It's that critical."
Although flakka has a temporary ban strapped on its ankles by the Drug Enforcement Administration this does not completely stop its public distribution. It could take years before a federal ban is put on flakka.
In the meantime, we might just have to be vigilant as the daily reports flood in on the latest victims of the flakka craze.
This video gives a brief rundown of the effects of the street drug, flakka. It gives animated version of the news story involving a man who was impaled by a fence while high on flakka.
(Sources: CBS News, CNN, Daily Mail, health 24, New York Post)