Twenty-four pounds of the synthetic drug Flakka were seized by federal officials en route to Broward County, Florida, from China in June 2015.
Broward is now ground zero for the drug, which comes through the mail mostly from China and is ravaging the local population.
Designed to mimic the effects of the psychoactive substance found in the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia, Flakka is advertised online by Chinese companies and can be shipped to any address in the United States.
This new designer drug is sold as small, clear crystals that can be popped in the mouth, smoked, injected, or vaped for as little as three dollars apiece, producing effects similar to amphetamines or MDMA — but much more intense and lasting.
Alpha-PVP —the synthetic stimulant in Flakka and was banned and labeled a schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in early 2014.
Flakka has now started to show up in parts of Ohio, Houston, and Chicago as well, though not yet to the extent of the epidemic in South Florida.
First time users of Flakka often end up being hospitalized with hallucinations, paranoia, and bizarre behavior. And first-time users may take 3 to 4 days before returning to a normal mental state. For repeat users, it can take two weeks or more.
We’re still uncertain of the long-term effects of Flakka use. But we do know that 27 people have died from overdoses in the last eight months in Broward County alone.
In addition to possible neurologic effects, Flakka can have devastating effects on a user’s kidneys. Due to muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), the kidneys can be overwhelmed and survivors of Flakka overdose may have to undergo dialysis for the rest of their lives.
I am now getting 3 to 4 cases of Flakka use a day, and it is unlike anything I have ever seen in my 20-year medical career. Health care professionals across South Florida emergency rooms are developing protocols to treat Flakka ingestion. Patients are brought into the hospital combative, violent and extremely difficult to manage. And they do not respond to typical sedatives.
Many patients have no memory of their actions while they are high on Flakka. One young woman I treated was lured to a hotel by two men offering her heroin, but she ended up using Flakka and was brought into the ER unconscious.
The last thing she remembers is talking to the two men in a gas station about heroin.
South Florida has been ground zero for many new drug trends in the past. Today, drug treatment centers in the region seeing Flakka use in 90 percent of their admissions.
Expect to see Flakka coming soon to a drug dealer, ER, or mailbox near you.
Posts by Melanie Rosenblatt
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