It seems like every decade, or maybe even less, a new drug is created to destroy the lives of its unsuspecting users. For many, it becomes a way to dull the pain, to escape or hide from an unfortunate reality. There are others who use drugs to loosen up or release any inhibitions during parties or other special occasions. Whatever the case, it’s strange that it’s always there in the shadows—masquerading as a cure to all of America’s ills.
During the 1950s, it was the beatniks and the black hipsters that made smoking marijuana cool. But it wasn’t until the 1960s when middle class white America started getting high that it was deemed a serious problem, according to PBS. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, it became sexy to use drugs. Then there was the crack epidemic from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s that changed everything that’s now known about drug use and abuse.
However, despite the slew of anti-drug ads, nationwide drug task forces, drug counseling centers, drug laws, and convictions, it still somehow manages to infiltrate the fabric of society—often destroying millions of lives in the process. The question is, however, what the new drug of choice is for 2015. Most importantly, how is it influencing its users and where is it coming from?
People suddenly transforming into mythical gods, flying like superheroes, developing Hulk-like strength, getting abducted by aliens, seeing dead people, and having sex with trees are just some of the recent headlines in the news. And all of the reports point to a dangerous new hallucinogenic substance that is responsible for casting dark clouds over America’s sunshine state. The new designer drug, called flakka, also has been linked to a recent wave of unusual criminal activity in Florida, according to Peter Holley of The Washington Post.
“The incident reports read like the hazy figments of a fevered nightmare come to life — often with a dose of streaking nudity,” says Holley. “There was the man who shed his clothing and ran through a choked Fort Lauderdale intersection while dodging vehicles, police and an unknown number of imaginary attackers, an April incident that was caught on camera.”
Similar to PCP or its street name, angel dust, flakka looks like little bits of crack cocaine, and can be sold in a capsule. It also can be snorted, injected or swallowed whole, and smoked with marijuana. And high doses of the new drug can cause extreme illusions and hallucinations.
“People, they start going crazy, just like PCP and LSD did in the old days,” Kevin Stanfill, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Miami field office, told Jacksonville station WJXT. “They get super human strength, they get paranoid. We get instances here in Florida where a man bit his baby, we get instances here in southern Florida where a man put this baby under water.”
According to several reports, flakka is usually developed in a lab from the chemical alpha-PVP, which is a fake version of the amphetamine-like chemical stimulant originating from the Middle East and Somalia’s khat plant where locals digest the leaves for a quick high, says CBS News reporter, Jessica Firger.
“It’s the same class of chemical that’s used to make so-called bath salts, a drug that was found to be behind a number of alarming incidents, including the case of a man in Miami who allegedly chewed another man’s face while high on bath salts in 2012,” wrote Firger. “The immediate and long-term effects of cathinones can rival some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine.”
An epidemiologist from the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, Florida, Jim Hall, told CBS News that cathinones are the new and improved, stronger version of MDMA or the drug commonly known as Molly. Cathinone use can also “lead to kidney failure and result in a user needing permanent dialysis.”
So where is the new synthetic drug coming from?
Fueling the Fire
Reports of flakka use and the bizarre incidents surrounding the drug have been popping all across America in places like Ohio, Houston and Chicago. But its use has been more prevalent in South Florida, which has been historically known for the cocaine trade due to the state’s convenient coastal location to South America and the Caribbean. However, the drug hails from approximately 7,000 miles away, in China, according to Business Insider reporter, Matthew Speiser.
“But while Florida has been ground zero for the drug dubbed ‘$5 insanity,’ flakka is synthesized legally in Chinese labs and can be shipped directly to American doorsteps,” Speiser writes.
As a matter of fact, over 150 companies from China sell the main ingredient, alpha-PVP, on the Web. But once it hits the streets, more chemicals are added. Since 2014 when its use became well known, there have been 275 incidents with 27 fatalities involving flakka, according to Reuters.
And adding more fuel to the fire, the cheap drug’s name has been linked to hip hop artist Waka Flocka Flame. Yep, that sounds like a sound strategy for combating America’s drug problem – blame the black rapper for a Chinese drug.
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