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Flakka is one of the most dangerous drugs in existence. For decades, the types of drugs available on the streets of the U.S. and around the world have remained pretty much the same, marijuana (and hash), heroin, opium, cocaine, prescription drugs, and other chemicals like LSD, PCP, and MDMA (Ecstasy).

Of course, alcohol is ever present, and you could add products that can be sniffed like glue and paint. But new classes of recreational ‘designer drugs’ are being created in laboratories in China, and one in particular called Flakka (or sometimes "Gravel") is making a particularly deadly impact.

What is Flakka?

Large Cities are popular places to find Flakka

Flakka is a close relative of another class of drugs that have been making the headlines over the last several years called bath salts. Both are a synthetic version of a naturally-occurring amphetamine-like drug known as cathinone.

Cathinone is found in a plant called khat that grows wild all across the Middle East and in Somalia. For centuries, people in these regions have chewed the plant for its ability to produce a mild euphoria and stimulant effect.

The active ingredient in cathinone is called alpha-PVP. This is substance that is being synthetically produced and marketed as Flakka. Alpha-PVP was banned and designated as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2014 in response to a surge of Flakka on the street, especially in Florida where there have been a number of bizarre incidents and overdose deaths attributed to the drug.

Side Effects of Flakka

Flakka comes in a crystal form, usually clear or white in color, although other colors are common. It is so potent that a normal dose is only about a tenth of a gram, and so cheap that a dose costs about $5. A regular dose is enough to induce a powerful stimulant effect and potentially some severe side effects.

Side effects of Flakka include:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Psychosis

Users regularly enter a state known as excited delirium, characterized by horrific hallucinations, violent behavior, and a dangerously high body temperature. Users experiencing excited delirium typically will shed their clothes due to high body temperature and enter violent, hallucinatory rages, often taking place in public.

In this state the drug begins to break down muscle tissue, and muscle fibers travel through the bloodstream, possibly causing kidney failure, and there is an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

What Flakka Abuse Looks Like

man walking down a road looking for Flakka

Flakka can be abused in a variety of ways, including snorting, injecting, or swallowing. One of the most dangerous ways to use the drug is to melt the crystals into a liquid and smoke it in an e-cigarette or vaporizer. This is a popular way to use the drug because it can be done in public inconspicuously.

Smoking Flakka is especially risky because the drug enters the bloodstream quickly, and it’s easy to overdose.

A Rapidly Growing Threat

Flakka is one of many new drugs being designed and produced so rapidly that they have not yet been banned legally in many countries. However, Flakka is illegal in the United States. The drugs are coming primarily from labs in China, where the drugs are legal, and they are easily bought from hundreds of online sources.

Dealing Flakka is a lucrative trade. $1,500 of Flakka bought online can sell for as much as $50,000 in American cities. Flakka is easily made even in the most rudimentary of labs, and regulation is almost impossible. For these reasons, Flakka and other designer drugs will remain a threat for the foreseeable future.

If you or someone you know is addicted to Flakka, find help now. Contact Recovery Boot Camp for more information today.


  1. No Author Cited, New Synthetic Drug 'Flakka' Triggers Crazed Behaviors, NIH MedLinePlus, 4/16/2015,
  2. Peter Holley and William Wan, Deadly Chinese drugs are flooding the U.S., and police can’t stop them, The Washington Post, 6/22/2015,

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