Thanks to a recent spate of disturbing public incidents, the synthetic drug flakka is now firmly on the radar of both the media and law enforcement in the U.S.
Taken in small doses, the drug acts as a stimulant on par with rave standards Molly or Ecstasy. Consume just a bit more, an easy and dangerous tipping point to cross, and users suddenly experience Hulk-mode — with enormous rage, feelings of superhuman strength, hallucinations and a rising body temperature that makes some shed their clothing.
"I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity," Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told the Associated Press. "They still want to try it because it’s so cheap."
The low price of flakka is due to both its mass production in places like China, India and Pakistan and the small dose necessary to achieve the desired high. According to LiveScience, a $1,500 kilo of the drug from China has the potential to make more than $50,000 here in the U.S. Unlike other drugs, it's also easily snorted, eaten, injected or smoked.
While flakka is starting to pop up throughout the U.S., it's Florida that appears to be the current hotspot of abuse. The state shot up from 85 cases in 2012 to more than 670 in 2014. As the drug's popularity soars, the deadly consequences associated with it are starting to become clearer.
"We're starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium," Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University, told CBS News. "This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don't receive immediate medical attention they can die."
Complicating matters, flakka's manufacturers are constantly altering its chemical makeup, making it difficult to test for. The fact that it's odorless and easily mixed with other synthetic drugs means that even unintentional use could spike.
"Some get high and some get very sick and may become addicted," Hall added to NBC News. "Some go crazy and even a few die. But they don't know what they are taking or what's going to happen to them."
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