Flakka Is the Worst Synthetic Drug Since Bath Salts

Published On 08/18/2016 Published On 08/18/2016

As if bath salts weren't bad enough, there's another nightmare drug on the loose that produces eerily similar results in its users -- namely murderous rage, inhuman strength, and a penchant for chewing on people's faces. It's called flakka, and it's pretty god-damned awful.

Here's everything you need to know:

What is flakka?

Simply put, flakka is the popular name for the tongue-twisting alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (or alpha-PVP), a synthetic drug that first began making waves in Florida back in 2014. Commonly sold for $5 per hit, the drug's ideal effects include euphoria and hallucinations, as well as a rise in body temperature, but even a slightly-too-high dose can result in anything from paranoid psychosis to cardiac arrest.

A recent, particularly brutal case in Florida saw police arrest an FSU student named Austin Harrouff after he allegedly murdered a married couple and tore flesh from one victim's face with his teeth, all the while making "guttural sounds and animal noises." Officers' attempts to tase the individual were ineffective, and it ultimately took four deputies (and a police dog) to peel Harrouff off his victim. While toxicology reports are still unclear at this time, police have indicated Harrouff's behavior is symptomatic of a serious flakka overdose

Why does flakka drive people crazy?

Flakka, like bath salts, is a type of synthetic cathinone: a drug chemically similar to amphetamines, whose mechanism of action on the brain isn't entirely clear. In addition to the paranoia and hallucinations, the most violent reactions to these drugs are often referred to as a sort of "excited delirium" -- which is a fancy way of saying you're so agitated & violent that chewing someone's face seems like a perfectly normal thing to do.

So how is flakka different from bath salts?

Technically, the two are chemically distinct variations within the same synthetic cathinone family, but thanks to the overall shady nature of these drugs it's quite common for flakka to be included as an active ingredient in whatever's being sold as "bath salts,"  so there's a fair bit of overlap. Really, though, the fact that "bath salts" is already a misnomer should indicate that you're probably not getting what you think you're getting. 

How common is flakka? 

According to the DEA, Flakka use skyrocketed over the last few years, from 85 cases in 2012 to over 670 in 2014 -- that said, flakka-related arrests and deaths have reportedly seen a remarkable decline in South Florida, one of the areas worst-hit by the drug. Of course, if the aforementioned brutal murder in Martin County does turn out to be the result of a flakka overdose, those statistics will likely have to change. 

Should I take flakka?

Uh, no. Definitely not.

Gianni Jaccoma is an editor at Thrillist, and he's waiting for the inevitable Krokodil epidemic to hit Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gjaccoma



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