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Flakka: the drug wreaking havoc in South Florida.

Flakka, a synthetic Cathinone drug South Florida has recently become all too familiar with, is capturing the media's attention and gaining much needed awareness in our communities. Aside from being potentially fatal, the effects of the drug on the body and mind after only one use can be long-lasting. Motivation for using the drug despite the alarming and dangerous side effects is questionable. Due to its low cost (about $5 per dose), lack of legal recourse and inability to be detected on routine drug tests has likely fueled the spread of Flakka statewide.

Alpha-P VP (alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone), known on the street as Flakka, Gravel or "$5 insanity", has been categorized as a Schedule I drug by the DEA since March of 2014. At that time, the number of Flakka cases reported in South Florida had increased from around 60 in 2013, to more than 670 cases in 2014.

After Flakka is consumed either orally, snorted, injected or smoked, the drug rapidly crosses the protective blood-brain barrier and begins to flood the brain with the release of neurotransmitters, activating the reward center of the brain and producing a sense of euphoria similar to that of methamphetamine and cocaine. The powerful drug stops the normal reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, causing the chemicals to build up, and leading to the cascade of terrifying side effects reported with its use. The most common immediate psychological effects of Flakka use include paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, agitation and aggression. The drug has been noted to cause extreme states of delusional paranoid psychosis or "manic psychosis", excited delirium and bizarre behavior related to hallucinations and paranoia. Along with the psychological effects; physical manifestations include "super human strength" and desensitization to pain. Flakka elicits an adrenaline release which significantly increases blood pressure and heart rate. The body temperature rises, reaching up to 105-106 degrees Fahrenheit, which can lead to seizures, electrolyte disturbances, organ damage and brain swelling. The breakdown of muscle tissue, coupled with dehydration can cause a dangerous condition known as Rhabdomyolysis, leaving the user with potentially irreversible kidney damage.

Although the drug's average affects only lasts 3-4 hours, paranoia, inability to control thoughts and anxiety have persisted long after the drug has been eliminated from the body. High-complexity laboratory testing methods, such as LC-MS (Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry), are being used to detect Flakka (Alpha-PVP). There is no current point of care urine test for the drug.

Knowing how to recognize the signs of drug abuse can lead to early treatment and can even save a life. If you or someone you know has a drug problem, contact a drug addiction treatment facility or mental health professional in your area.

By Alyssa Cavanaugh, ARNP, FNP-C

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Author:Cavanaugh, Alyssa
Publication:Addiction Professional
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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