Thursday, 16 April 2015

New Synthetic Drug 'Flakka' Triggers Crazed Behaviors


Use of chemical-cousin to 'bath salts' appears to be on the rise, experts say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A potent new designer drug called "flakka" is making headlines across the United States, driving many users into fits of screaming, naked rage accompanied by vivid hallucinations.

Why naked? Because the drug sends body temperatures skyrocketing to as high as 106 degrees, which prompts users who have taken too much to rip away their clothes during sweating, delusional fits.

"They strip off their clothes and run outdoors, acting very violent with adrenaline-surged strength," said Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, Fla.

"It can take four or more cops to hold them down," he said.

Flakka is a chemical-cousin of the "bath salts" drugs. Both are synthetic versions of naturally occurring amphetamine-like drugs called cathinones, said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who has written about the new drug.

The khat plant found in the Middle East and Somalia is the source of natural cathinones. People in those areas chew the leaves of the plant to achieve a mild euphoria, Glatter said.

Flakka, also known as "gravel" in other parts of the country, takes the form of a white or pink crystal that is foul-smelling, Hall said.

The drug's active ingredient, alpha-PVP, was banned and labeled a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in early 2014, Glatter said. Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most dangerous, and are believed to have a high risk for abuse or dependence, according to the DEA. Despite this, flakka's availability has been surging on the streets of Florida.

"In all of 2014, Broward County saw about 200 crime lab cases of alpha-PVP," Hall said, referring to samples of the drug sent to the lab for analysis. "In the first three months of 2015, we've seen over 300 cases."

Police arrested a Fort Lauderdale man high on flakka earlier this month after he allegedly ran down a major thoroughfare wearing only sneakers, according to previously published reports. The man, 35, told officers he was being pursued by people who had stolen his clothes, and was trying to get hit by a car so they would stop chasing him.

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