The short answer is absolutely, positively, without a doubt YES! Flakka is an illegal synthetic drug that acts like a cross between cocaine and meth; it reportedly gives a similar high as cocaine accompanied by mild hallucinations. The downsides are also very dangerous including heart attack, aggressive behavior, a dramatic increase in body temperature, and sometimes even paranoia that convinces users that invisible people are chasing and trying to kill them. In fact, some were so paranoid they tried to break into police stations for protection. Other incidents involving the use of Flakka include a woman going to the hospital after licking a dance floor until her tongue was bleeding and a man who believed he was Thor and ran naked through a neighborhood then tried to have sex with a tree.
Not only do the effects of the drug itself make it a major concern, but the cheap price, often only $5, makes the spread of this drug extremely alarming.
Flakka, aka “$5 Insanity”, aka “gravel”, is a dangerous synthetic cathinone drug called alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PDP), popularly known as “Flakka,” which is surging in Florida and is now being reported in other parts of the country, according to many news reports. Alpha-PVP is chemically similar to other synthetic cathinone drugs popularly called “bath salts,” and takes the form of a white or pink, foul-smelling crystal that can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized in an e-cigarette or similar device. Vaporizing, which sends the drug very quickly into the bloodstream, may make it particularly easy to overdose. Like other drugs of this type, alpha-PVP can cause a condition called “excited delirium” that involves hyperstimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations that can lead to violent aggression and self-injury. The drug has been linked to deaths by suicide as well as a heart attack.
Flakka is an extremely addictive, manmade substance manufactured primarily in India and China, and is often sold online–sometimes for as little as $5 per dose (hence the name $5 Insanity)–making it an attractive alternative to many more expensive drugs.
Why Should We Worry?
The use of the drug has been prevalent in south Florida but instances of use and overdoses are increasing and appearing in other areas of the country. For instance, in 2012, the DEA charted less than 85 cases of Flakka use in the US but in the first week of November 2015, New York City hospitals alone are now seeing 150 admissions each week related to Flakka usage and it is continuing to spread. It is now turning up in states like Georgia, West Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio as well.
The rapid spread of new designer drugs, like Flakka, is concerning especially because of the continuous improvements in modern technology that make it is easier to alter drugs to get around regulations meaning that many of these drugs may be legal until than can be identified and classified. Even though most states ban synthetic cathinones, the class to which Flakka belongs, clandestine drug manufacturers continue to tweak their formulas to release new “legal” versions of the drugs.
More Bad News …
Unfortunately, traditional workplace drug testing panels do not detect Flakka. SAMHSA certified laboratories have yet to develop technologies to test for Flakka. Once these technologies are developed, testing for Flakka will be an add-on test similar to current testing for Bath Salts and Spice (K2) and it will be expensive.
So What Now?
I think it was well stated in The Oxford Journal of Analytical Toxicology Study “Analysis of Synthetic Cathinones Commonly Found in Bath Salts in Human Performance and Postmortem Toxicology: Method Development, Drug Distribution and Interpretation of Results” where they concluded the following.
“Considering that the major effects of the synthetic cathinones are on the neurological and cardiovascular systems and are serious in nature, a screening protocol should be employed to allow for the detection of these dangerous chemicals. It is a constant challenge for the laboratory to keep up with clandestine manufacturers as they attempt to stay one step ahead of law enforcement by changing the chemicals just enough to elude prosecution.”
For employers and supervisors, we must to be diligent; we must to be aware. Supervisors and DER’s (designated employee representatives) should stay current with training and keep updated on the trends that can profoundly affect your staff and your company. Being aware of drugs and of your company culture will help you to recognize if there is a problem in your work environment.
I invite you to keep up on what’s new and trending by visiting our blog and video blog at www.NationalDrugScreening.com. If you don’t see a drug testing industry related topic you are interested in or have questions, send me a message and I will be happy to get back to you or add an article or video on the topic. Thanks for reading!