Though it first showed up in the United States with a few isolated cases in 2012, flakka exploded onto the scene in South Florida in 2014, particularly in Broward County, per the Miami Herald. Flakka is a designer drug that is synthetic, which means that it is made in a lab, and it is considered a novel psychoactive substance (NPS).
Flakka, also known as gravel, comes from the synthetic cathinone alpha-PVP, which is an amphetamine-like stimulant drug. It is usually sold as a white or pinkish crystal similar to bath salts. It is typically vaporized and smoked, injected, snorted, or eaten for an intense and delusional high.
Under the influence of flakka, individuals tend to exhibit psychotic behavior that often leads to aggression, violence, paranoia, hallucinations, hyperstimulation, and self-injury. A flakka high often induces what is called “excited delirium” and raises body temperature to dangerously high levels, causing people to want to take off their clothes.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration placed alpha-PVP into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances, making it illegal to possess or use in the United States. In 2015, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued an “emerging trends” warning regarding the surge of flakka in South Florida. Cases of flakka abuse, delirium related to the drug, and deaths involving flakka spiked dramatically in the spring and summer of 2015.
Combined efforts from local law enforcement, community agencies, first responders, and federal authorities were able to curb the flakka epidemic almost as quickly as it began. In 2018, there are virtually no cases involving flakka in Florida or anywhere else in the United States. Flakka is still a dangerous and illegal drug of abuse, but the flakka crisis in Florida seems to have mostly passed.