The news stories about flakka use are frequently bizarre and tragic. For instance, a Floridian who’d been abusing flakka for a week robbed a woman at knifepoint and stole her car; then he offered her a ride. Another flakka user impaled himself on a footlong spike as he tried to scale the fence of a police department. Even worse, a 27-year-old was beaten to death by the butt end of a shotgun by his friends after they used flakka together.
Flakka’s appeal lies in the fact that it’s cheap, and only a small amount of it can generate a powerful, long-lasting “high.” A flakka user can attain a high similar to cocaine or methamphetamine between three to five dollars. Therefore, the typical profile of a flakka user is someone with little to no income, such as a college student or homeless person.
A few years ago, flakka was distributed throughout South Florida, which resulted in the stories above. But its use sharply fell when China (the manufacturer of flakka) banned the substance. Flakka’s cheap highs create an avalanche of health problems, which makes it one of the most dangerous drugs in existence.
What Is Flakka?
Flakka is composed of a chemical developed in the 1960s as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and presser agent. The drug comes in the form of white or pink crystals, and it looks like the pebbles you’d find at the bottom of an aquarium. Its nicknames include Gravel, $5 Insanity, Lunar Wave, Cloud Nine, and Scarface.
Though it’s a chemical cousin of the notorious street drug “bath salts,” it’s far more potent. In fact, flakka can be even more dangerous and longer-lasting than cocaine.
A typical dose of flakka is 0.003 ounces, and it has a significantly foul odor. It can be snorted, smoked, injected, eaten, or vaporized in e-cigarettes. Like cocaine or methamphetamines, flakka blocks the molecules that keep dopamine and serotonin in check. The result is a rush of chemicals in the brain, which produces a “high” that can last for several hours.
After prolonged use, flakka causes symptoms associated with excited delirium syndrome. For instance, flakka users feel overheated, and they experience hyperstimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations that can lead to extremely aggressive and/or violent behavior. It’s not unusual for someone on flakka to inflict serious injury on themselves, as it exponentially boosts adrenaline levels.
In Addition To Those Symptoms, Flakka Users May Exhibit Signs Of:
- Extreme agitation
- Jerking muscle movements
- Delirious thoughts
While the drug gets its name from a Spanish slang term for a beautiful woman (“la flaca”), its dangerous effects are anything but beautiful.
Signs Of Flakka Use
The Use Of Flakka Is Closely Tied To Cocaine-Like Changes In Behavior. Some Of These May Include:
- Extreme agitation
- Aberrant or bizarre behavior
- Psychotic symptoms, hallucinations, or delusions
- Intense confusion
Flakka is similar to bath salts, and have the potential to cause negative psychosocial consequences as well as violent behavior. Use of flakka can lead to various forms of trauma or unintentional injuries that can be severe.
Flakka is shown to have a high potential for abuse and addiction and is believed to be more dangerous than bath salts or cocaine because you cannot ensure a proper dose.
Some Other Adverse Effects Of Flakka Or Synthetic Cathinones Include:
- Heart attack
- Changes in heart rate
- Cardiomyopathy, which is damage to the heart muscle
- Death because of cardiac complications
Those who are around people who use or abuse flakka will notice that their personality changes over time. Users will become much more agitated and impulsive. The close relationship with bath salts suggests that there may also be uncontrollable movement when someone is actively using.
What Are The Signs Of Flakka Addiction?
Chronic flakka use often leads to addiction. Users can build up a tolerance to the drug, which leads them to use more frequent, larger doses. As with any substance, a flakka addiction is characterized by the compulsive behaviors a user displays in procuring and using the drug.
Signs Of Flakka Addiction Include:
- Having strong cravings
- Having persistent thoughts about flakka
- Spending large amounts of money on flakka
- Neglecting family, work, or school responsibilities
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms 24-48 hours after using it
- Using the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms
- Hiding flakka use from family, friends, and colleagues
- Isolating oneself from others
- Not being able to stop, despite repeated attempts
- Feeling like you can’t function without it
- Using flakka with alcohol or other drugs
If you suspect that you or a loved one has a flakka addiction, you should consider addiction treatment.
What’s Involved In Addiction Treatment For Flakka?
The first and most important step when treating any substance abuse addiction is medical detoxification. With flakka, this step is essential, as it rids the body of the drug and other toxins. It also helps return your brain chemistry back to normal. Detox typically lasts between three and ten days, and it’s supervised by our fully accredited medical staff.
The goals of detox are safety and comfort. You’ll be monitored and treated for any potentially dangerous medical issues that may arise during detox. We’ll also ensure your comfort during your withdrawal process by medically alleviating any issues you experience.
On your road to recovery, the step that follows detox is residential treatment. First-time clients go through an assessment to determine the best treatment plan for their needs.
In this phase, clients spend between 30 to 60 days at a treatment facility. You’ll meet with therapists who will help you discover the psychological root of your addiction. You’ll also have access to mental health education, daily goal-setting sessions, and relapse prevention.
Here Are The Most Commonly Used Therapy Models:
- Personalized treatment to address the emotional issues that contribute to addiction.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a treatment that addresses the negative thoughts and actions associated with addiction. In this stage, you learn practical strategies and skills to combat old habits.
- In dialectical behavioral therapy, you’ll learn about the triggers that lead to substance abuse.
- In motivational interviewing, you’ll identify key issues, learn how to think positively and embrace changes that can improve your life.
- You’ll learn how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life.
- Since addiction is often described as a family disease, family therapy will help you heal some of those wounds.
- In order to ensure your post-treatment success, you’ll go through aftercare planning, which helps prevent relapse.
How Dangerous Is Flakka?
Flakka is extremely dangerous. A miniscule amount of it can trigger severe, life-threatening symptoms. If you use it, you may feel euphoric, animated, and alert, and you may experience a heightened sex drive. However, higher doses of flakka can cause people to rip off their clothes in public and become extremely violent.
In addition to being linked to suicides and heart attacks, flakka has been known to cause brain damage and kidney failure. Many survivors of flakka overdoses require dialysis for the rest of their lives. The risk of lethal overdose increases when used with methamphetamine and cocaine.
Flakka Abuse Statistics
- In 2013, 126 deaths were tied to flakka use in Florida.
- In South Florida, 63 people died from flakka use between September 2014 and December 2015.
- As of 2015, 1.1% of high school seniors reported using bath salts, which is similar to flakka.