A new drug has hit the streets of Florida, and some experts are saying that it’s just as bad as or even worse than bath salts.
Available for $5 or less per vial, the new drug, called “flakka,” produces intense delusions and hallucinations, and it can even be deadly. Flakka (alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone or alpha-PDP) induces paranoid behavior that often leads to aggressive violence and even injury to those who use the drug.
One young man was caught on film after using the drug, thinking that he was being chased. He tried to jump a tall fence but slipped and impaled his leg on the sharp metal rails.
Other stories may seem more bizarre but have led to property damage and scared neighbors. One user damaged a glass storefront after believing he was being chased by German shepherds; another man ran around naked, said that he was the Norse god Thor and tried to have sex with a tree; and a third ran through a neighborhood waving his arms like a bird flapping its wings and yelling about being a god.
The drug is also linked to deaths by suicide and heart attack and can push users’ body temperatures up to 106 degrees. The effects can last anywhere from three to four hours to several days, and flakka can become physically and psychologically addictive.
Many users are also inhaling the substance by vaping it through e-cigarettes. For most of vaping history, the devices have been used only as a tobacco cigarette replacement for around one million U.S. adults, despite public bans on vaping in cities like Orlando.
But for those who decide to put flakka in their e-cig and vape it, the effect of the drug can lead to kidney damage, kidney failure and even death.
The drug is made in China, Pakistan and other countries. It is described as a foul-smelling white or pink crystal and can be snorted, injected, or eaten.
Vaping may seem like the least harmful way to consume it, since that method won’t give off any odor, but the reverse may be true.
Vaping flakka sends it directly to the bloodstream and makes it easier to overdose, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse. Teens, especially, have been using this method to get high off the drug, which has amphetamine-like effects similar to bath salts.
The drug was introduced in Florida in 2013, but there were no reported cases in Broward County for that year; however, in 2014, the Sheriff’s Office saw almost 200 incidents involving flakka, and there have been 275 just in the first three months of 2015. By contrast, bath salts led to 23,000 emergency room visits across the country in one year alone, two-thirds of which resulted from bath salts combined with other drugs.
Law enforcement is urging Floridians to stay away from the substance, as it can have deadly effects.
Some, such as the grandmother of the young man who impaled his leg on a fence, are hoping that a more personal message will resonate with potential users of flakka.
“Please talk to your children,” Louise Neely told the Associated Press after seeing the video of her grandson. “Please tell them don’t get on what this is.”