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Warn Your Teens About the New Designer Drug, “Flakka”

Last updated Jan. 14, 2016

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP


Flakka is made from a chemical cousin of the amphetamine-like drug found in bath salts.

There is a new designer drug in town, but it is not as glamorous as it appears to be. The new drug known as “Flakka” is a synthetic amphetamine-like stimulant that is analogous to the compounds found in bath salts, which are known as cathinones. Recreational use of the drug results in an excited delirium behavior and altered state of consciousness exhibited by paranoia, sweating, delusions, and hallucinations.

Flakka comes in a crystalline rock form that can be administered orally, snorted, injected, or vaped. The duration of the drug’s effects has been known to last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours to several days. The components of the drug make it highly addictive, from both a physical and psychological standpoint.

Flakka has been reported to be found primarily in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, but it seems likely that it will make its way to the larger cities soon.

The synthetic stimulant in this drug, known as alpha-PVP, had been banned and labeled by the U.S. DEA as a Schedule 1 drug in early 2014. When a drug is labeled as Schedule 1, this indicates that the drug has substances that have a high potential for abuse, no accepted use for treatment in the United States, and lacks accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision. But this status does not stop the illegal drug suppliers from making new versions of Flakka.

The excited delirium felt by those who take the drug can be explained by the mechanisms in the brain that happen when the drug is used. Under normal conditions, the brain releases chemicals for nerve transmission and the cells takes them back up. However, Flakka blocks this re-uptake of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to the prolonged effect of the drug on the brain.

When Flakka is taken, it can result in a body temperature elevation as high as 105 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature can cause kidney damage. Other physiologic side effects include the following: severe anxiety, psychosis, paranoia, violent surges of behavior, and loss of awareness of reality.

The cases of Flakka have risen dramatically in the last few years, from 0 cases in 2010 to 670 in 2014. Talk to your teens about this new dangerous drug and make them aware of the severe short- and long-term consequences of taking Flakka.

For more information, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/emerging-trends


Glatter, R. (2015 Apr 4). Flakka: The New Designer Drug You Need to Know About. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2015/04/04/flakka-the-new-drug-you-need-to-know-about/

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Jan. 14, 2016
Last updated: Jan. 14, 2016