What is Flakka?: The Latest Illicit Drug Trend Among Teens and Young Adults

flakka treatment in ct

Some people call it the devil’s drug. Others have named it the zombie drug. Some, plain and simply, refer to the drug as “five-dollar insanity.” For most, the drug is Flakka.

Popularly known as Flakka, formally known as alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP), the chemical cousin of bath salts has made its way into the hands of drug users nationwide. Its effects are both terrifying and intense. Its aftermath is tragic. And most often, the consequences of Flakka use are irrevocable.

You may have seen the emergence of this drug overwhelm recent news, as it traveled up the coast of South Florida to New York City, stretching to Maine, Kentucky, Illinois, and beyond over the last year. You may have seen the headlines or heard national warnings to protect your children from this new substance. To educate your teen, to spread awareness about this drug, however, you must first understand what it is and how it works. Let’s take a closer look.

Flakka is a synthetic cathinone drug chemically similar to bath salts, whose effects mirror that of the stimulant cocaine. It most commonly takes the form of white or pink, foul-smelling crystals that can be eaten, snorted, injected, smoked, or vaporized. One single dose—costing under five dollars—can give a user an intense, fleeting high. One single dose can also lead a user into severe paranoia, aggression, and hyper-stimulation. In some cases, one single use can result in a fatal overdose. The high from Flakka can last up to several hours, much longer than that of cocaine. As it sits in the brain, the drug simultaneously destroys neurons. Its neurological effects can be permanent.

Flakka is cheap and highly addictive, two factors that predominantly led to its recent surge. According to one study, users need ten times less the amount of Flakka as they do cocaine in order to get addicted to the drug. This is primarily because of the way the drug works in our bodies. Flakka blocks a user’s dopamine and norepinephrine transporter proteins from functioning properly in the brain. This leads to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and dopamine production, making the brain demand more and more of the drug to register reward.

The year 2015 saw hundreds of deaths related to the drug Flakka—most often resulting from overdose, heart attack, and suicide. Emergency visits linking back to Flakka abuse increased tenfold in the last year. Because Flakka is a synthetic, lab-made drug, its effects are unpredictable. On one side of the spectrum, use of the drug can lead to euphoria, dancing, and spastic movements. On the other end, users will experience delusions, hallucinations, seizures, muscle cramps and spasms. In the worst cases, Flakka use can cause kidney failure, heart attacks, and a dangerous spike in body temperature.

Like most designer drugs, Flakka is a medley of unknown, lab-grown ingredients. That is the danger of synthetic drugs: You never know what you are going to get. Some batches of Flakka may contain chemicals like the anesthetic ketamine or tranquilizing benzodiazepines. Others may contain toxic materials not meant for human consumption. Some manufacturers may even cut drugs like heroin or cocaine with Flakka in efforts to save money.

Flakka comes from China and is sold over the Dark Web to dealers in the United States. Dealers range from college kids needing some extra cash to street gangs who hire younger children to sell to their friends. Because one can buy Flakka for as little as three dollars a dose, the target market is typically young, poor people looking for an easy high.

Users are not always poor, however, and sellers are not always ill-intentioned, or even aware, of the dangers of Flakka abuse. Professionals believe that the Flakka trend will turn over to children and teenagers next, who will begin using their five-dollar allowances to pay for a dose (or two) of the drug.

As a parent, it is crucial now more than ever to educate your teen about the dangers of Flakka abuse. Make sure your teen knows the facts surrounding Flakka, not only what the media is showing us. This drug is both dangerous and deadly. Prevent it from entering your home. For more information on Flakka, or to start a drug treatment plan for your teen, please call Turnbridge at 877-581-1793.