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A number of news stories last month reported the arrest of a Florida man high on a new designer drug called “flakka.” The man had rushed out of his Miami house, ripping off his clothes and screaming. It took five police officers to bring him to the ground, as the man resisted with super human strength. He was sweating profusely, and he was hallucinating. Additional news stories have shown up over the past several months involving the use of flakka, including a story about someone trying to kick down the doors of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and another about a man who impaled himself on a metal fence while running from police.
As reported, the symptoms of flakka use include severe anxiety, psychosis and violent behavior, accompanied by adrenaline surges that result in extraordinary physical strength. Flakka causes body temperature to elevate, sometimes as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit, which could lead to kidney failure and death. Several reports of streaking – running naked in public – have been attributed to the rise in body temperature caused by use of the new designer drug.
While the stories are coming mainly out of Florida, it appears that the drug has reached at least two other states – Ohio and Texas – and is spreading fast. According to the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), flakka cases went from no reported cases in 2010 to 85 in 2012, and more than 650 in 2014. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department is reportedly putting together a task force known as the “Flakka Initiative” to deal with the increasing use of the drug, coordinating with the DEA and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Public awareness is one goal of the task force, warning people to be on the look-out for flakka and to stay away.
Flakka comes in crystalline rock form and is swallowed, injected, smoked or snorted, with effects lasting from several hours to several days. It’s addictive and can cost as little as $5 per high. As a new designer drug, it is not yet illegal to sell or use the drug.