Flakka Disappears from South Florida Streets
Since 2014, designer drug Flakka has ravaged south Florida and pushed its law enforcement and health services to the brink of despair. Now, however, news reports and comments from local police suggest the drug has disappeared from the streets completely.
What is Flakka?
Flakka is a synthetic cathinone drug (alpha-PVP) used recreationally. Cathinones – better known as bath salts – are chemically similar to amphetamines which produce stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Flakka is banned in many countries and is considered a Schedule I drug in several states in America, including Florida. Schedule I drugs are those that are easily abused and do not have any known medical use.
The drug is thought to be mass manufactured in China and sold in America for only about $5. Even though authorities continue researching and making new laws to ban the drugs, manufacturers continue changing the chemical structure of the drug to fit U.S drug law requirements.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), flakka can be eaten, snorted, injected or smoked as vapor using an e-cigarette. This drug causes a condition called “excited delirium”, which manifests as hyper stimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Users can become violent, aggressive and likely to self-harm. Some of its other negative effects include: high temperature – with users claiming it feels like their bodies are on fire; kidney damage; heart attacks; seizures; paranoia; psychosis and suicidal tendencies.
Flakka Outbreak in South Florida
The History of Flakka in South Florida
In late 2014, a few cases of Flakka use were reported in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No one expected that more people would start experimenting with the drug. Vice News reports that since Flakka broke out in South Florida, there have been over 60 reported deaths and about 300 hospital admissions every month.
According to CBS News, Broward County was the epicenter of the Flakka outbreak. News reports showed flakka users running on the streets naked. The drug is said to raise body temperatures to about 105 degrees. Some users became paranoid and thought they were being chased by dogs or by police offers. Others ended up injuring themselves. For instance, a man impaled his leg in a fence while escaping from his ‘pursuers’. Another man was said to have shown “superhuman” strength.
Reports such as these were so common that law enforcement and public health services became strained. In a Washington Post article, Lt. Ozzy Tianga from the Broward County sheriff’s office said that adrenaline-filled flakka users would become very agitated and violent that several officers would have to be sent to wrestle them to the ground and take them to the hospital.
Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor with the Broward County sheriff’s office, told the Washington Post, “At the height of the flakka craze, you were almost praying for crack cocaine to come back.”
Surprisingly, the streets have now grown quiet. There have not been any cases of flakka use or reported deaths for the past three months, according to CBS News. The sudden stop has been attributed to China’s decision in October, last year, to ban the production of synthetic drugs, including Flakka.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told CBS News, “I have never seen a drug gain popularity so rapidly and be eliminated so quickly.” He added that emergency hospital admissions – which had risen to 20 per day in 2015 – and police arrests had become rare.
South Floridians can now breathe a sigh of relief as they work on new techniques of dealing with drug outbreaks of this magnitude.