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What the Flakka? 4 things cops need to know about the drug

Recent news from Florida has shed light on a new drug called Flakka, and its use is not isolated to the sunshine state


This photo made available by the Broward (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office shows confiscated vials of flakka. This emerging drug can alter brain chemistry in such a way that users can’t control their thoughts and it can increase adrenalin.

AP Photo/Broward Sheriff’s Office via AP

Cops throughout the country, especially in Florida, have been noticing a spike in the use of a new drug that users are calling “Flakka.” Some of the Flakka-related calls that officers have responded to have been, to say the least, disturbing.

According to court documents, a Fla. man recently began hallucinating while under the influence of Flakka and thought someone was going to kill him. As a result of his paranoia, he attacked an 86-year-old woman and killed her. The suspect is now facing second-degree murder charges.

In Lake Worth, Fla, a naked man — while standing on the roof of an apartment building and brandishing a handgun, shouted, “I feel delusional, and I’m hallucinating.” In another incident, a Fort Lauderdale man tried to kick in the door of the police station because he thought he was being chased by an automobile seeking to do him harm. Yet another incident saw a man impale himself on a spiked fence while under the influence of Flakka.

Here are a few tips about Flakka to keep in mind if you encounter it on patrol.

1. Identifying Flakka

The overall appearance of Flakka is an off-white powder. Flakka is similar to many other drugs that are marketed as bath salts, like MDPV and Mephedrone, and is sometimes sold as bath salts. Flakka’s real chemical name is alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (alpha-PVP), and besides the name Flakka, it also goes by another nickname: “gravel.”

Currently, alpha-PVP is almost entirely manufactured in China, India, and Pakistan and then shipped to the United States, where dealers will repackage it into gram quantities for sale. There have been some reports of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and sometimes heroin being adulterated (cut) with Flakka.

Like many other stimulant drugs, users of Flakka are at risk of becoming addicted to this substance. Users who take Flakka are seeking euphoric stimulation, but often experience anxiety, an accelerated heart rate, paranoia, agitation, and psychosis.

Some users have reported “the inability to even think.”

One of the more severe side effects associated with this drug could be death due to self-destructive behavior or cardiac arrest.

Like most illicit drugs, the buyer must beware because there have been cases where Flakka has been packaged in capsules (pills) and sold as “Molly.”

2. Visual Effects

So what if you come across someone who is under the influence of Flakka? What will you see? Their signs of intoxication will be consistent with a CNS Stimulant, and possibly a hallucinogen. You may see hyperactivity; dilated pupils (with the pupils having a minimal reaction to light); an elevated body temperature; elevated pulse; possible increased respiratory rate; paranoia; and hallucinations.

If you encounter a driver who you suspect is under the influence of Flakka, it is best to have someone trained in drug recognition conduct the investigation.

If one is not available, it is best to stick to your usual investigative methods and then document the signs of influence and impairment you observed.

3. Ingestion Methods

So how do people use Flakka? Users report they have taken the drug sublingually (under the tongue), intranasally (snorting) and smoked it (either from a pipe or off of foil with a straw). Users who have taken the drug sublingually report the drug numbs their tongue, while smokers of the drug report it tastes like crack cocaine.

As with other drugs in this class, and because the drug is water-soluble, it is possible to take it rectally (often called “booty bumping”), but no one is admitting to that yet. The amounts a user may consume to get high can range from around 2 mg to 30 mg.

4. Legal Status

So what is the legal status of Flakka? Currently in New Mexico, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Virginia alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (Flakka) is a Schedule I drug.

On January 28, 2014, the DEA listed alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone, along with nine other synthetic cathinones, as Schedule 1 with a temporary ban, effective February 27, 2014.

There are a host of websites selling Flakka. Most are based in Europe and offer to sell it in varying quantities. A half gram will go for approximately $8 while you can buy a kilo — 2.2 pounds — for approximately $2,400.

While Flakka may be a fad drug that dies out quickly, my gut instinct is that it will be around for a while, much like some of the other “research chemicals” that people have grown fond of over the years, and because of its sale on the Internet, perhaps for a very long time to come.

Keith is a retired Police Sergeant who worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. He was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges, and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry. Keith is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.