Alpha-PVP, also known as flakka or gravel, has been compared to synthetic bath salts for its mixture of chemicals that provides an amphetamine-like effect. Its dangerous side effects have been known to cause paranoia, hallucinations and bizarre, psychotic-like behavior as well as numerous health issues that could make even small amounts of the drug lethal. Loose regulation of the drug makes it easy to obtain.
Since 2012, the number of Drug Enforcement Administration cases linked to flakka has been steadily rising. In 2015, New York City reported 150 hospital admissions per week related to usage of this drug.
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‘Zombie’ Drug Man Made and Unregulated
Flakka is called the “zombie” drug because of the bizarre and delusional behavior that causes people to act in a psychotic and aggressive manner. These behaviors often lead to clashes with the police, injury or death.
Victims often remove their clothes while under the influence of flakka due to a spike in body temperature caused by the drug- sometimes as high as 105 degrees. This can have a long-lasting effect on the kidneys.
Flakka hangs around in the brain for longer than cocaine. Although the high lasts one to several hours, the neurological side effects can be permanent. The chemicals in flakka attach themselves to the neurons that regulate dopamine and serotonin, which control mood. It’s hard to control the exact dose, and there is a small difference between getting high and overdosing.
This man-made substance comes mostly from China and India and is often sold online for less than $5 a dose. It can be smoked, snorted, vaped or injected. Because it can be ingested in many formats and is comprised of a chemical compound mixture that constantly changes, it’s easy to evade law enforcement.
Although some states have outlawed flakka, others are waiting for the DEA to deal with this substance. Flakka currently falls under the DEA’s label of a synthetic cathinone, also known as “bath salts.” However, manufacturers tweak the chemical compound and sell it with a disclaimer that the product is “not for human consumption” to skirt the DEA’s ban. The agency has tried to re-classify it and move it to a Schedule 1 classification, which is reserved for drugs likely to be abused and that has no acceptable medical use.