The Flakka Drug Epidemic: Inside The Outbreak Of The ‘Zombie’ Stimulant

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The results showed that S-α-PVP is slightly more potent than racemic α-PVP, while R-α PVP is 10 to 20 times less effective in blocking dopamine and norepinephrine uptake. When tested at the same dose, S-α-PVP produced a greater effect than racemic α-PVP. Racemic and S-α-PVP were self-administered by rats at a 0.03 mg/kg injection, whereas R-α-PVP was self-administered at a 10-fold higher dose. Dose–effect responses suggested that R-α-PVP was at least 30 times less potent than S-α-PVP. The results indicate that the neurochemical, behavioral, and cardiovascular effects of racemic α-PVP most likely reflect the effects of the S isomer. Nelson et al. [53] studied the stereoselective effects of α-PVP, and the results showed that the adverse effects of racemic α-PVP were mediated primarily by the S isomer.

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  1. Flakka resembles white or pink gravel, salt or grains of sand.
  2. Capt. Mike Salzano of Fort Lauderdale Fire Department also sees the results of flakka abuse as he responds to calls for erratic behavior.
  3. Some brand names of synthetic cathinones include Bliss, Vanilla Sky, Lunar Wave, Cloud Nine, and White Lightning.
  4. But nightmares and medication might be the least of a user’s worries.
  5. “We’re referring to these as the guinea pig drugs. Often the dealer might not even know what they’re selling.”

Α-PVP levels were identified at concentrations of 597, 635, and 580 ng/mL in the blood from the right and left ventricles and femoral vein, respectively [69]. In the USA, there were over 300 cases of α-PVP exploitation in the first three months of 2015 [70], and 18 fatal deaths were reported alcohol intoxication in only one south Florida county [71]. A brief review of the previously reported human α-PVP poisoning cases is summarized in Table 1. Flakka is an addictive drug that people use to obtain a cheap, quick, and euphoric high. The cathinones found in flakka stimulate the release of dopamine.

Short-Term Effects of Flakka Use

Like other stimulants of this type, flakka can cause excited delirium, otherwise known as agitated delirium. This condition occurs when there’s an excessive influx of sympathetic activation. The euphoric high from flakka abuse can last from hours to days, depending on the dosage. Sometimes the effects of flakka can linger for weeks after it has been ingested. Alpha-PVP produces a rush of dopamine in the brain, causing an intense high similar to that of cocaine and methamphetamine.

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Some complications of Flakka drug abuse can happen while the drug user is acutely agitated if they were to harm themselves or others; however, medically, the severe consequences of the agitation caused by the drug appear later. Agitated patients can go into a state called “excited delirium,” which is a medical emergency. In the excited delirium state, restrained patients struggle to free themselves, scream, flail, and can even have seizures. This struggle causes a high core body temperature called hyperthermia. The combination of a high body temperature and extreme muscle overactivity can cause other metabolic problems to happen in the body.

Withdrawal Treatment/Treatment for Flakka Addiction

This is likely a result of the zombie/cannibal label, as perception of harm often leads to less use. The first flakka-related fatality occurred in January, when Rhonda Sanchez overdosed with flakka and other drugs in her system in Deerfield Beach, Florida, according to the Sun-Sentinel. In March, a man high on flakka tried to scale a fence and impaled himself in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, CBS reported.

The purpose of this study is to review expert information about these dangerous synthetic drugs with respect to their chemistry, synthesis, metabolism, pharmacology, and toxicology. Currently, drug abuse is a significant issue in the area of public health and, more importantly, among recreational users of the so-called “designer drugs”, “legal proceeds”, or “research chemicals”. There have been about 540 various drugs categorized as novel psychoactive substances since 2014 [1]. In addition, their number seems to continuously increase [2]. Bath salts are usually white or brown crystal-like powder, available for sale in small plastic bags marked “Not for Human Consumption”. They are also known as “plant food”, “phone screen cleaner”, or “jewelry cleaner” [3].

Scientists have shown that Flakka is as addictive as bath salts in rodent studies, however. Even after the scientists made the drug difficult for the rats to obtain, they persisted in pushing a lever several times that administered the drug if they failed to get it from the scientists first. The immediate and long-term effects of Flakka can rival those of some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine. Similar to other stimulants, Flakka use results in a flood of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

The drug creates intense but short-lived effects, which start within 5 to 10 minutes and last about 30 minutes. The hallucinogenic effects include changes in vision, mood, emotions, and body sensations. Marijuana contains the chemical THC, which acts on different parts of the brain to create the “high” that users experience, such as changes in sensations, mood, body movements, thinking, and memory. It can act as both a stimulant and a depressant, and even a hallucinogen. Krokodil is named for the crocodile-like appearance it creates on the skin. Over time, it damages blood vessels and causes the skin to become green and scaly.

This type of treatment typically incorporates elements of inpatient rehab but allows the patient to live at home while seeking care. The information contained on this website is not intended to be a substitute for, or to be relied upon as, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. They last between two and five hours, which is similar to the duration of the effects of effects of bath salts. Flakka resembles white or pink gravel, salt or grains of sand. It can be smoked in a joint or e-cigarette, injected or compressed into capsules and swallowed.

During one run that NBC News joined him on, a woman wanted a man removed from her property. Robert Hutchinson, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, said nearly all flakka is manufactured in China, which only this fall classified it as a controlled substance that is illegal to export. Stephanie is now in a drug-treatment program at J.C.’s Recovery House, where director Ray Rapaglia says 20 percent of his slots are taken up by flakka users, with many more turned away. A 37-year-old old mother of two named Stephanie told NBC News about her first experience with flakka, which she unwittingly smoked during a drug binge.

The cathinones also inhibit the reuptake of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the central nervous system. This inhibition causes an increase in the hormones that elevate mood. This is because the “comedown” after drug ingestion causes feelings of depression and being down.

As little is known about flakka, detoxing in the care of medical professionals is essential. When someone goes through a flakka detox, they will usually experience withdrawal symptoms such as those listed above. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

While it’s both relatively little-known and almost universally illegal in the West, khat has long been and still is openly and legally used in its native region. Drug-induced cannibalism now appears to be a hot media topic. This is understandable as much of the public is now obsessed with zombie TV shows. But we need to ensure can labs detect synthetic urine in 2024 that we remain cautious about news we hear, and responsible for news we share. Flakka is particularly infamous for being tied to rashes of bizarre behavior in Florida and recently in Australia. On Nov. 23, however, media coverage of Harouff’s toxicology tests revealed that Flakka was not detected in Harrouff’s system.

Collectively, these findings support zebrafish sensitivity to α-PVP and show some parallels with its effects in mammals. This study also suggests that aquatic models based on zebrafish can help to further examine the CNS effects evoked by α-PVP and to screen for related new synthetic psychoactive drugs. However, no experimental studies have ecstasy addiction and abuse been conducted to investigate the chronic impact of α-PVP on human health. In fact, knowledge on the long-term effects of α-PVP use in humans is lacking. In 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration banned two chemicals used to make the synthetic street drug bath salts. In response, illegal drug manufacturers tweaked their formula.

Muscle tissue begins to break down, releasing proteins and other cellular products into the bloodstream, in a process called rhabdomyolysis. The result of the cellular products and proteins released during rhabdomyolysis and dehydration can impair the filtering function of the kidneys, leading to renal failure and death. In addition, such agitation may trigger Taser use or other methods that have the potential to harm the individual when law enforcement personnel have to intervene. When experiencing excited delirium, some people react with violent behavior and self-injury.


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