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Flakka Abuse

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What Is Flakka?

Flakka is a relatively new synthetic designer drug that is gaining increased popularity, particularly in Florida, Texas, and Ohio. This man-made stimulant can also commonly be referred to as “gravel” on the street due to its white, crystal-like chunks.

Flakka belongs to a group of synthetic drugs known as synthetic cathinones. The synthetic stimulant compound contained in Flakka is known as alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (?-PVP).The drug action of alpha-PVP is similar to that of cocaine, and in 2014 it was banned and labeled as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Flakka is a highly potent synthetic stimulant. It can be:

It is also possible for Flakka to be put into an e-cigarette and vaped. The effects of the drug can last as little as just a few hours, but it can also linger on for several days.

Signs and Symptoms of Flakka Use

Flakka is associated with cocaine-like changes in behavior. Behavior changes induced by Flakka use may include:

  • Alertness.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Extreme agitation.
  • Aberrant and ‘bizarre’ behavior.
  • Delirium or intense confusion.
  • Psychotic symptoms, delusions, and hallucinations.

Flakka’s similarity to ‘bath salts’ implies a high potential to cause violent behavior and other negative psychosocial consequences when taken, especially when used in high doses. This may lead to unintentional injury and various forms of trauma that may be severe.

Is Flakka Addictive?

Currently, there are very few studies exploring trends in Flakka abuse and dependence. Despite the limited research, however, Flakka is believed to have a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. This high degree of risk was determined for the most part by considering Flakka’s drug properties and how it compares to other drugs of similar action.

Studies have demonstrated that Flakka and bath salts, which are another type of synthetic cathinone, elicit similar reactions when administered to lab rats. Flakka, however, is believed to be even more dangerous than bath salts or cocaine, because it is much more difficult to ensure precise dosage control.

Effects of Flakka

Additional adverse effects of synthetic cathinones like Flakka include:

  • Changes in heart rate.
  • Hypertension.
  • Heart attack.
  • Cardiomyopathy (damage to heart muscle).
  • Death due to cardiac complications.

Those who spend time with someone who uses or abuses Flakka may notice that the person exhibits personality changes over time. Users may become more disinhibited, impulsive and/or agitated. The close relationship between Flakka and ‘bath salts’ suggest that the use of this drug may also lead to increased risks of uncontrollable or excessive movement and hyperactivity.

More information on synthetic cathinones, their chemistry and mode of action can be found here.

Credit: CBSN

Flakka Abuse Treatment

The neurological effects of Flakka toxicity may be treated with drugs such as benzodiazepines, to counteract agitation and aberrant behavior. The cardiac effects of these drugs can be addressed with the intravenous administration of low-dose norepinephrine (to normalize heart rate and blood pressure) over several hours (typically not more than 6).

Supportive measures, accompanied by monitoring and follow-up over several weeks are recommended to ensure full recovery.


Targeted substance abuse recovery for those experiencing problems with Flakka use may include inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment.

Inpatient treatment is also known as rehabilitative or residential treatment, and requires that the patient remain within a facility to receive treatment. This type of treatment is typically effective because it pulls the patient out of his everyday environment so he can put all of his focus and energy into recovery.

Outpatient treatment is received in medical centers or other treatment facilities that the patient visits regularly as part of their normal lives. This type of treatment typically incorporates elements of inpatient rehab but allows the patient to live at home while seeking care.


Therapy for drug abuse may take the form of psychosocial treatments such as:

Pharmacological Treatment

In some cases, patients may also require pharmacologic treatment. This is known as medication-assisted treatment and is administered under supervision to reduce cravings, bolster abstinence, and treat symptoms such as psychosis or agitation.

Patients recovering from cathinone toxicity may also require ongoing care to regain functional status lost in the course of adverse effects on the heart or cardiovascular system.

Teen Flakka Abuse

Thanks to the legal or semi-legal status of this drug, it may be more accessible to younger people at risk of drug use and abuse.

Until recently, synthetic cathinones were widely available from online retailers. Preliminary data from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study indicate that the 2014 prevalence of ‘bath salt’ use among 8th graders appeared to have declined in comparison to the previous year, but remained constant among 10th or 12th graders. Clearly, synthetic substances like these continue to be a problem within a younger demographic.

To prevent teen drug use, it’s important to talk to you child about substance abuse and clearly explain that the legal status of a drug does not ensure its safety or potential for addiction.

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