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  • Flakka (Alpha-PVP) | Overview, Effects, Abuse, Addiction, & Treatment

    Flakka (Alpha-PVP) | Overview, Effects, Abuse, Addiction, & Treatment

    While psychoactive substances like alcohol, opium, and cannabis have been around for thousands of years, many other drugs appearing on the streets in 2021 are far more recent and far less well understood. 

    Flakka, a street name for the inexpensive and dangerous “designer drug” Alpha-PVP, is one such newcomer. 

    What Is Flakka?

    Alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone is a synthetic cathinone that acts as a stimulant similar to amphetamine, the active ingredient in certain ADHD medications. 

    Chemically, Alpha-PVP resembles a naturally-occurring stimulant compound found in the Khat plant, which grows in the Middle East. 

    Flakka only arrived on the drug market in the mid-2000s and has since become a significant threat to public health in many areas of Florida, and Broward County in particular. 

    It is sold as pink or white crystals (“Gravel”) and may be swallowed, snorted, injected, or vaporized in e-cigarettes. 

    New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) 

    Considered a new psychoactive substance (NPS), Flakka is part of a collection of black-market, lab-made drugs imported to the United States from China. It may be mixed with or sold as other illicit substances ranging from cocaine to ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamine, and more. 

    These NPS drugs are generally classified as Schedule I controlled substances with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and addiction. 

    Use or possession of Flakka is a serious crime and a major health risk as well.

    Flakka Vs. Bath Salts

    While terminology varies, and those who purchase illicit drugs can rarely be 100% sure of the product they purchase, Flakka generally refers to Alpha-PVP, a specific synthetic cathinone. 

    Baths salts” is a term used to refer to synthetic cathinones as a whole, some of which may cause far more intense hyperstimulation than others.  

    In other words, Flakka is a type of bath salt, but not all bath salts are Flakka. Some bath salts may be more potent than Flakka, others less, and there is really no way of telling beforehand.

    Short-Term Effects Of Flakka Use

    As with other stimulant drugs, Flakka greatly increases the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. This trips the brain’s reward pathway, causing a euphoric high and priming a person to feel cravings to repeat the experience in the future. 

    It also greatly increases central nervous system (CNS) activity across the entire body, leading to sudden and intense increases in your:

    • heart rate
    • blood pressure
    • body temperature
    • alertness
    • confidence
    • aggression

    Severe Effects

    More severe or even deadly effects, which are common at higher doses but may occur at any dosage depending on the individual, can include:

    • severe hyperthermia (overheating)
    • kidney damage or kidney failure
    • cardiac arrest (heart attack)
    • stroke
    • psychosis (delusions, hallucinations, agitation)
    • excited delirium (extreme agitation and delirium, often including violent behavior and perceived “superhuman strength”)

    Comedown Effects

    Comedown effects after a Flakka high are similar to other amphetamine-like stimulants including methamphetamine. The effects of a comedown may provoke Flakka users into taking repeated doses over an extended period of time. These side effects may include:

    • dehydration
    • exhaustion
    • depression
    • drug cravings
    • psychosis and depersonalization 

    Long-Term Effects & Signs Of Flakka Abuse

    While the drug Flakka is a relative newcomer to substance abuse circles, experts believe that the long-term effects of abusing this dangerous drug are similar to those associated with abuse of other powerful stimulants. 

    Effects and signs of chronic Flakka abuse may include:

    • rapid development of tolerance, dependence, and addiction
    • changes to the structure of your brain, personality, and patterns of behavior
    • reduced impulse control and inhibition
    • impaired ability to concentrate
    • mental health changes (paranoia, depression, anxiety, anger, psychosis, and delusions)
    • sleep problems and insomnia
    • reduced immune function
    • loss of appetite and unhealthy weight loss 
    • severe dental health issues
    • painful skin sores, infections, and scarring
    • organ damage, including damage to the heart and lungs
    • reduced overall ability to maintain relationships, employment, and financial stability

    Is Flakka A Zombie Drug?

    Despite early and well-publicized reports of people high on flakka literally eating others in fits of insanity, there is no evidence that Flakka causes berserk cannibalism. 

    It may, however, cause an excited delirium resulting in wild, unpredictable, and severely violent behavior in those under this drug’s influence.

    Treating Flakka Abuse

    Unfortunately, Flakka abuse and addiction are difficult to treat because the lingering effects can take an uncertain period of time to recover from, if at all. And even among those who enter rehabilitation programs, relapse is common. 

    However, detox and inpatient rehabilitation followed by ongoing outpatient care and support is likely the best option for those seeking to overcome and recover from frequent Flakka use.

    Specific treatment elements may include:

    To learn more, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    NBC News - 'Devil's Drug': Flakka Is Driving Florida Insane
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts") DrugFacts
    United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Flakka (alpha-PVP)
    U.S. News & World Report - Flakka Is a Dangerous Drug, but it Doesn't Turn You Into a Zombie

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on June 20, 2022
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