When most of us hear the word “flakka,” images of the dreadlocked bae from Love & Hip-Hop come to mind, or, if you have a connection to Latino culture, you know it’s slang for skinny.
But these innocuous definitions have nothing on the drug flakka currently wreaking much havoc on the state of Florida, the culprit in three or four hospitalizations a day in Broward County, and more on weekends, according to a drug epidemiologist quoted by CNN.
Flakka is a very potent, lethal, synthetic drug that has a huge potential for overdose. Many liken it to the second coming of Bath Salts, which were banned in 2012. Flakka, however, is still legal in the U.S. right now.
Here are five facts on this deadly pharmaceutical:
1. Flakka can cause permanent brain and kidney damage
Flakka, also referred to as “gravel” produces a high similar to cocaine but lasts much longer. Experts say it’s possible that the neurological effects can be permanent because the drug not only “sits on” neurons, it may also destroy them. Flakka also can cause hyperthermia, which is hard on the kidneys, leading to possible survivors of overdoses to need dialysis for the rest of their lives.
2. Flakka can be taken in a variety of ways, and its symptoms mimic PCP
Flakka can be smoked, injected or snorted and can lead to a range of extreme symptoms including paranoia, perceived super human strength (referred to as “excited delirium,”) and violent behavior. Body temperatures can reach 105 degrees and higher.
3. Flakka is cheap, and its overdose potential is very high
Most doses of flakka are $3 to $5 dollars and it’s marketed to poor and homeless people as a cheap alternative to cocaine. Because of the difficulty of controlling the exact dose of flakka, just a little bit can make the difference between “getting high and dying,” reports CNN.
4. Flakka is still legal in the U.S. and mostly made in China
Most synthetic drugs are made in China, and flakka is no different, usually selling over the internet or through street dealers. Flakka contains a chemical that is a close cousin to MDPV, a key ingredient in “bath salts,” which were federally banned in 2012. And though the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed a temporary ban on flakka, dealers work around this ban, by sticking a “not for human consumption” label on the drug.
5. Flakka is hitting Florida especially hard
Although cases have been reported in Alabama, Mississippi and New Jersey, the Sunshine State is being rocked by flakka, though officials still don’t know why. Stories from Florida are especially harrowing, from a South Florida man who broke down the hurricane proof doors of a police department to a girl in Melbourne, FL who ran through the streets bloody and naked claiming she was Satan while on the drug.