Flakka May Be on the Rise in Missouri

By Paul Gaita 06/22/16

After "disappearing" from Florida, the infamous designer drug has resurfaced in southwest Missouri. 

Flakka May Be on the Rise in Missouri
courtesy: DEA photo library

While the synthetic drug known as alpha-PVP or “flakka” appears to be disappearing from the streets of Florida, it seems to have taken root in Missouri, where police and health officials are concerned about its rapid rise among drug users. Reports that alpha-PVP had been seized in areas around Springfield, the third largest city in Missouri, began surfacing in late 2015; locally based “chemists” were reportedly purchasing the chemical from China, the primary source for the drug, until pressure from the United States forced a ban on production and export in October 2015. 

When users began showing up in Springfield emergency rooms exhibiting the bizarre behavior and mental states associated with the drug, they knew that flakka had arrived in Missouri, much as other designer drugs had in the past. “If you hear about a drug gaining a foothold in another part of the country it will invariably be here in St. Louis in the next year,” said Mike Morrison of Bridgeway Behavioral Health, which provides addiction and trauma recovery throughout the greater St. Louis area.

Recently, the drug appears to have spread to the southwestern portion of the state, with addiction centers and medical facilities reporting increased use among patients and, in particular, young people between the ages of 12 and 16. Health officials have noted that media coverage of individuals’ behavior on the drug, as well as numerous homemade videos of people experimenting with it, have helped to boost interest. “It’s gotten a lot of exposure because of the violent side effects,” said Nurse Jason Martin of Cox Health in Springfield. He noted that in addition to its immediate and disorienting side effects, users are reporting long-term reactions to withdrawing from the drug. “There’s a separation from reality,” said Martin. “[A person] is completely different after they take it.”

As Missouri officials contend with the presence of flakka in their cities and suburbs, other states have reported its arrival: police in Maine reported confiscating the drug in a January bust. Flakka use has also continued in states like Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia. And while areas like Broward County, Florida—which reported 50 flakka users per month arriving in its treatment centers last fall—have seen a significant decrease in recent months, the drug continues to pose a problem for law enforcement in places like Martin County, Florida where two sheriff’s deputies were injured last week in an altercation with a man trying to break into a home on Hutchinson Island. 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.