The ‘$5 insanity drug’: Flakka

By: Tyler Oberheim

Alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone, or more commonly recognized as alpha-PVP or Flakka, is a designer drug that has been taking the South Florida Region by storm. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration the Flakka related cases went from no reported cases in 2010 to 85 reported cases in 2012 and raised to an alarmingly high 670 reported cases in 2014. The DEA reported a total of 275 cases related to Flakka already in the year 2015 and it is only May. Flakka, a synthetic cathinone that is similar to bath salts, was originally synthesized back in the 1960s and has made a recent comeback due its nature to mimic the effects of methamphetamine (Naylor, Freemanm Blough, Woolverton, & Huskin, 2015). The commercial availability of this drug has contributed to its rise in use in the last few years. Synthetic drugs are made available to the public by altering their chemical structures in such a way that regulatory scheduling can be avoided (Hill and Thomas, 2011).

Flakka often takes the form of a white or pink crystal that carries a foul odor and is highly addictive. Flakka has multiple avenues into the body including oral, intranasal, intravenous, and even vaporized through the use of an e-cigarette device. Flakka’s mode of action is to block the brains ability to reabsorb the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine which explains the euphoric feelings and adrenaline rush that an individual on Flakka experiences. Symptoms of Flakka intoxication include increased body temperature (which is why in most cases the individual is observed naked), “super-human” strength brought on by the surge of adrenaline they receive from ingesting the drug, anxiety, paranoid thoughts, mood swings, and substance induced psychosis. Extended use of Flakka can lead an individual to experience kidney failure, heightened anxiety, and permanent psychosis.

Splattered across the television screen and newspapers everywhere are police reports and headlines demonstrating the horrific state that Flakka puts those individuals whom consume it into. So the question that still remains to be answered is where does all this Flakka come from? The answer to that is China. In March of 2015 the Drug Enforcement Administration were notified by their British counterparts that multiple parcels containing the drug had been intercepted and that it was bound for Palm Beach County Florida from Hong Kong. The ordering process is simple: find one of the multitudes of websites selling it and place your order, thus starting the chain reaction that will flood South Florida with this deadly psychoactive substance.



Hill, S. L. & Thomas, S. L. (2011). Clinical toxicology of newer recreational drugs. Clinical Toxicology, 49, 705-719.

Naylor, J. E., Freeman, K. B., Blough, B. E., Woolverton, W. L., & Huskinson, S. L. (2015). Discriminative-stimulus effects of second generation synthetic cathinones in methamphetamine-trained rats. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 149, 280-284.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.