Flakka: What Is It?

Flakka

Flakka is a man-made drug which causes a high similar to cocaine. It has a similar effect as “bath salts,” but flakka has the potential to be a much more dangerous drug than cocaine. 

Flakka is versatile in its many forms of ingestion. Flakka can be smoked, injected, snorted or even injected and can lead to a range of extreme and negative symptoms. It produces a high which is widely considered as an “excited delirium,” marked by violent behavior and spikes in body temperature and paranoia. It also gives users the feeling that they have incredible strength resulting in a fury that can only be related to the popular Marvel Comics character, The Incredible Hulk.

Most synthetic drugs that are abused in America come from China and is either sold over the Internet or even through convenient stores and illegal drug dealers. A single dose of flakka can cost between $3 and $5, which makes this drug a very cheap alternative to coke and even meth.

Drug dealers often target the young and poor population and also try to enlist homeless people to buy and sell this deadly and crazy drug. It’s because these people are already considered disadvantaged in terms of chronic disease and access to proper health care.

Florida seems to be particularly hard hit by the flakka craze and resulting in deadly overdoses.

There have been reported about three or four hospitalizations within a single day in Broward County in South Florida, and even more on weekends. It is unclear why the Sunshine State is considered such a “hotbed” for flakka abuse, but that doesn’t change the staggering facts of its wide use and abuse within the county and the state as a whole. 

A recent survey of American high school students revealed that almost 1% of teenagers knowingly used flakka within the past year according to data collected by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and published findings in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence. In addition to deliberately abusing the drug, it is also nicknamed “$5 Insanity” and “gravel”, 19.2% of American teenagers who reported using flakka used it more than 40 times; a very scary reality for any parent within the U.S.

Flakka: The Effects of Abuse

Flakka, which derives its name from a Spanish slang word meaning: a beautiful woman (“la flaca”). Flakka contains a chemical that is close in makeup to MDPV, which is a key ingredient in bath salts. These chemicals bind and thwart molecules on the surface of neurons that normally keep the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters, dopamine, and serotonin, in “check”. Cocaine (Coke) and methamphetamine (Meth) have very similar modes of action within the brain, but the chemicals that are found in flakka have a long-lasting effect. 

Effects of Flakka or Bath Salts Abuse

  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Violence
  • Aberrant/bizarre behavior
  • Heightened sense alertness
  • Self-harm
  • Irritability
  • Extreme agitation
  • Intense confusion
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychotic behaviors

A typical flakka high can last from one up to several hours and it is possible that the neurological damage from the effects can be permanent. Not only does the drug sit on neurons, but it can also destroy them. Flakka lingers around in the brain for longer than cocaine and because of this fact, the extent of the destruction of the physical body can be far more permanent.

Flakka: Symptoms of Abuse 

Another serious and potentially life long lingering symptoms of flakka ingestion are the effect on one’s kidneys. Flakka can cause muscles to break down, as a result of hyperthermia, taking a toll on the kidneys causing life-altering side effects. Most experts agree that some survivors of flakka overdoses may, unfortunately, be on dialysis for the remainder of their lives.

Short Term Symptoms of Flakka or Bath Salts Use and/or Abuse:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Euphoric sensations
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heightened alertness 
  • Aggressive behaviors 

When someone ingests flakka it results in a flood of dopamine within the brain just like other stimulants. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s pleasure centers. Bath salts and other synthetic narcotics like flakka hinders the uptake of dopamine by the brain cells and produces an intense feeling of euphoria.

Flakka: It Can Kill You

Since its introduction onto the drug scene in 2012, flakka has become an infamous street drug for its psychostimulant effects similar to the common drug, bath salts which is also called “zombie” drug because of the effects on humans mimicking a walking dead style effect. 

In under a year in 2015, Florida had reported over 80 deaths attributed to flakka use and abuse and that number is on the rise. In the same year in Broward County, Florida it was reported over 2,000 ER visits which flakka was involved being used or abused and again, the numbers have increased sharply as flakka gains popularity with abusers and addicts due to its low cost and easy availability on the street. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), death caused by drug overdoses, including synthetic drugs like flakka, has been on a steady rise each year since 1999. In 1999, NCHS reported 16,849 overdoses resulting in death and in 2017, they reported a huge increase of leading to 70,237 overdose deaths from drug abuse including drugs like flakka.

NCHS also reported that synthetic narcotics including fentanyl and flakka, have had a drastic rise in overdose deaths. In 2013 it was reported under 5,000 deaths resulting from drug overdose but drastically rose to 28,466 deaths in 2017. These numbers prove that the current war on drugs is not working and addiction treatment is needed in order to start reducing these painfully high numbers.  

Flakka: Will You Withdrawal Or Need Medical Assisted Detox?

Whether or not you will have withdrawal symptoms or if you need medical detox from flakka consumption, depends on the length of use or abuse of the substance on the individual. People react differently to different types of drugs and substances, and with the increase in popularity to prescription medication, one never knows how the body will react with other medications or substances, even things as simple as a vitamin.

Since flakka is so widely used alongside other dangerous drugs and substances, flakka use doesn’t have to be the drug of choice to warrant a short inpatient stay or even an outpatient medical detox program. Medical detox programs exist to assist people who find themselves physically addicted to all sorts of drugs, including flakka, and help to make the process of withdrawal comfortably and with less pain. The State of Florida houses more detox and addiction treatment centers than any other “party” state within the United States.

Flakka Detox Programs: Will Your Health Insurance Pay for Detox?

The answer is typically, yes! However, most insurance companies require policyholders to choose from an approved medical provider list, and usually, there will be some costs associated with these types of addiction treatment programs including flakka detox, like co-pays or cost-share insurance programs. Finding out what kind of insurance policy you have or what exactly is covered is important. Be sure to contact your insurance agent to determine what treatment options work best with your budget. 

In addition, flakka detox programs have medical professionals on staff who are highly trained to assist you while dealing with your insurance company, and they can answer any questions you might have.

Coastal Detox: Helping You Detox From Flakka And Other Substances

If you need medical detox from the use of flakka or other substances, you can contact Coastal Detox – located in beautiful Stuart, Florida. Their addiction treatment programs consist of professionals that are eager to help you detox safely and comfortably from any and ALL substances including flakka. If further addiction treatment is necessary, Coastal Detox will help you find the right type of addiction treatment program you need in order to give sobriety and improved mental health a real fighting chance. 

Sometimes people avoid seeking a medical detox or addiction treatment because they fear it is outside their budget. Thankfully, Coastal Detox provides professionals who assist you with each and every process of flakka detox and addiction treatment including helping you get approval from your insurance company for their detox program(s). 

Seeking help from flakka abuse or addiction can be hard and scary, but you can’t be afraid to ask for help! It’s painful enough to deal with addiction, you don’t have to deal with the pain of detox or have to withdrawal alone. For more information on how Coastal Detox can help you detox from flakka and other substances, please call (877) 406-6623 today.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

 

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.