Look, drugs are bad. But there's a new bad boy on the block, and its name is flakka. Not to be associated with rapper Waka Flocka Flame, flakka has authorities on high alert due to the alarming effects it has on people who consume it. So — what are flakka's side effects? Well, you could experience such high levels of anxiety, hallucinations, psychosis, and paranoia that you lose your sense of reality and your awareness of your surroundings. With that serious of a state of mind, you might not even know what you're doing or where you are.
Flakka, sometimes referred to as "gravel," is pretty much the street version of bath salts, which are a type of crystal meth. Compared to other drugs, it's relatively cheap at "$5 a pop." You can either snort, smoke, inject, or swallow flakka, which reportedly comes from China, Pakistan, and India. The synthetic drug's chemical compound has been identified as the stimulant alpha-PVP.
Stimulants, or uppers, induce feelings of euphoria, alertness, awareness, and productivity. Small doses of stimulants can be found in legal prescription drugs, while illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines generally have higher dosages. When you take an upper, your brain cells release dopamine — or in the case of ecstasy, serotonin — which are often called the "happy chemicals." Simply put, these chemicals are what make you feel good, and yes, your brain does naturally release them when you're eating a delicious burger or having sex. But uppers allow you to experience that good feeling for a prolonged period of time because they block your cells' sensors so they can't reabsorb, or re-uptake, the chemicals.
During that "excited delirium" stage, your body temperature can quickly elevate to temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That high of a body temperature can cause kidney damage and failure. If you weather through, your high will eventually wear off and all of your dopamine and serotonin will be used up, which generally leaves you in a depressed or unemotional state of mind for several days until your brain replenishes your happy stock.
Flakka uses a similar blocking mechanism as other uppers, but it's still relatively new so other effects, both short- and long-term, aren't yet known. Physiologically, flakka can trigger anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations that turn into a psychotic state. People on flakka tend to believe they have super-human strength and are likely to turn violent.
Flakka has turned up in states such as Ohio and Texas, but it appears to be heavily present in Florida, with many of the bizarre incidents reported so far having taken place in Fort Lauderdale. A man was found running naked through the street earlier this month. In February, surveillance cameras caught another man kicking glass doors of the city's police department.
While that all might sound harmless, consider this. Fort Lauderdale authorities found a man, who reportedly admitted he had smoked flakka, impaled on the fence surrounding the police building. Remember, the zombie scare in 2012 when a Miami man was found eating another guy's face in broad daylight? He was on bath salts, a.k.a. flakka's cousin.
You shouldn't do drugs. But above all, be smart about what you put in your body. Don't be the dumb-ass running naked in the streets or the dead body I have to later report about.