Looking Into the $5 Dollar Insanity Drug That Terrorized America
It was like a scene out of a badly written B-movie. In 2015, viral videos of crazed men and women, supposedly high on the synthetic drug flakka, spread across America. The incidents, which were mostly spotted in South Florida, showed people exhibiting behavior so bizarre and intense that they were likened to real-life zombies. There were also stories of people climbing bridges while fully naked as well as those who were trying to break into police stations and government agencies thinking that they have superhuman strength.
Perhaps the strangest of all, flakka was linked with flesh-eating incidents that occurred during that time. While subsequent reports proved flakka was not present in the toxicology report of the suspect (the alleged cannibal), it did not stop the mainstream media from sensationalizing these highly unusual occurrences. At the height of the epidemic, numerous TV and online stories branded flakka as the latest dangerous drug trend, and these reports were shared millions of times in social media.
What Is Flakka?
The substance, also known as gravel, zombie drug, and cannibal drug is a synthetic drug technically known as alpha-PVP (alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone). It supposedly originated in China and enters the US illegally or through online purchasing. This zombie drug comes in crystalline form and resembles rock candy. People who take the drug are after the euphoric effects it delivers.
It is often compared to ‘bath salts’, a psychoactive stimulant, however, the difference between flakka and bath salts is that the cannibal drug is supposedly much stronger and more addictive. Its effects on the brain are similar to the stimulant effects provided by cocaine and crystal meth, but the duration of the effects was found to last much longer.
According to several reports, the drug was supposedly designed as a much cheaper alternative to cocaine. One dose sells for only $5, making it attractive for people who want to get the same high but are low on cash. It was even called the ‘five-dollar insanity’ due to its low price, which also made it readily accessible to young people and students.
The Zombie Drug: Can Flakka Kill You?
This drug became viral around the same time when a zombie TV series was so popular and post-apocalyptic movie plotlines showed how certain substances were turning humans to scary man-eating species. So when the first videos of crazed people came out, it was not difficult to believe that the zombie drug was real. But does it really turn you into a zombie?
This zombie drug is a dangerous drug with serious side effects. Between September 2014 and December 2015, it was associated with at least 80 deaths. Using a high quantity of the drug can cause a person to overdose as well as experience paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. It is not also uncommon for the zombie drug to be combined with other substances. Flakka mixed with weed, molly or ecstasy is also common. Mixing it with other substances could lead to complications such as extreme aggression, rapid heartbeat, hyperthermia, suicidal thoughts, and a state called ‘excited delirium’.
According to experts, the excited delirium symptom combined with the hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) is what potentially causes people to have zombie-like psychotic episodes, take off their clothes, and have intense adrenaline that they have to be restrained. Aside from these, symptoms such as self-perception of invincible strength and fearless thoughts may occur. Being in this delirious state can even lead to death if not addressed immediately.
Like any other drug, flakka may not affect everyone the same way. Some people who are taking this synthetic drug may scoff at the zombie claims and consider them as urban legends. This may be because, like any other drug, it can affect people differently and depending on the amount of dosage, the effects can also vary.
Most of the extreme gravel incidents were caused by abusing a large dose. This usually happens because the cheap cost of the drug is allowing people to get an insane high for just a fraction of the cost of meth or cocaine.
Flakka in 2019
With the zombie viral videos terrorizing the public, you would’ve thought that people have stopped taking the drug. But in 2019, the first national study on flakka conducted by the NYU Langone Medical Center was released and it found that nearly one percent of US teens are using flakka. This study only tackled the use of the drug among teens and did not look at the rate of use among adults.
While this number may seem underwhelming, that one percent still translates to thousands of teens exposed to the dangers of this drug. What makes it more alarming is that 1 in 5 students who admitted to taking the drug said that they used the drug more than 40 times during the past year. This only shows that even if flakka is not as prevalent as Spice/K2 or marijuana, it still continues to affect many Americans, including the vulnerable young population.
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