Bizarre Crimes Committed On Flakka Keep Making Headlines

By McCarton Ackerman 05/06/15

From a man running naked in the streets to another man attacking an elderly woman, flakka has caused users to do crazy things.

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Flakka is continuing to make headlines across the country as more people become aware of the synthetic drug, but many of these new reports are due to the truly bizarre crimes that people are committing while high on it.

In recent weeks, reports have included a Florida native running naked through his neighborhood, attempting to have sex with a tree and later telling police he was the mythical god Thor. Two other men tried to break into the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in separate incidents, while another man stood on his rooftop in Lake Worth, naked and wielding a gun while yelling, "I feel delusional and I'm hallucinating!" Other crimes are less humorous, such as one individual attacking an 86-year-old woman.

"We're starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium," said Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University. "This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don't receive immediate medical attention they can die."

Flakka is made from a chemical called alpha-PVP, a synthetic drug that falls under a class of substances called cathinones. It fills the brain with dopamine while simultaneously blocking its transmitters, creating a high that rivals extremely strong crystal meth or cocaine. The high can last for up to four hours, but its effects can linger for days.

The drug has become a very recent phenomenon. There were no reported cases involving flakka by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2010, but there were 85 in 2012 and 670 last year. In 2013, Florida reported 126 deaths associated with flakka and other synthetic cathinones. However, the deaths are largely due to flakka frequently being mixed with other substances such as crack cocaine and heroin.

“It's just a dangerous, dangerous drug,” said Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale. "It actually starts to rewire the brain chemistry. They have no control over their thoughts. They can't control their actions.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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