What is “Flakka?”
Flakka is produced from a compound known as alpha-PVP, synthetically derived and made from an amphetamine-like derivative of the drug, cathinone.
The khat plant, which grows in parts of the Middle East as well as Somalia, is the source of cathinones. The leaves of the plant are often chewed to achieve euphoria or a high.
While other designer drugs such as molly or ectasy, which contain MDMA, a psychedelic, have grown in popularity over the past decade, Flakka represents a new trend which could lead to greater harm to those seeking altered states of consciousness.
The reason lies behind the mechanism of the drug as a re-uptake inhibitor of dopamine and norepinephrine—important chemicals for nerve transmission—leading to a more prolonged effect, typically referred to as “excited delirium.”
Under normal functioning, the chemicals are taken back up by cells after they are released. But Flakka blocks this mechanism for reuptake, leading to a concentrated and prolonged effect of dopamine and serotonin, known as a state of “excited delirium.”
During this state, body temperature can rapidly elevate to as high as 105-106 degrees Fahrenheit, triggering a cascade of events which could also lead to kidney damage and failure as a result of rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis results from the breakdown of muscle and can release a chemical called CPK, or creatine phosphokinase, which can damage the kidneys.
The physiologic effects of Flakka trigger severe anxiety, paranoia, and delusions, leading to a psychotic state, characterized by a surge of violence associated increased strength and loss of awareness of reality and surroundings.
One of the chief concerns of Flakka is that the suppliers–typically from China, Pakistan and India– as well as users often do not know what is actually contained in the drug when it is sold on the streets. Transactions by lower level suppliers are often made online, then reaching the streets where is it repackaged in capsules or made available for vaping. Lacking purity, it may be combined or cut with anything from heroin to cocaine, or even sprinkled with cannabis.