A dangerous synthetic drug is making its way into Alachua County.
Two cases involving flakka, or alpha-PVP, occurred in the county over the past two months, said Lt. Todd Kelly of the Alachua County Drug Task Force.
“Your downtown dancing night of fun on campus ends up with you running naked down a street and dying from excited delirium, or dying because you are overheated, or getting into a conflict with law enforcement,” he said.
“The consequences are very bad.”
Kelly recently told the Alachua County Commission about the dangers of flakka. He said that while it is most prevalent in South Florida, particularly in Broward County, and while it isn’t exclusive to any specific consumer group, it has gained appeal as a powerful party drug.
That makes Gainesville youths particularly vulnerable, he said.
“Any town where there’s a lot of young people, it’s going to be appealing for people to try to distribute it in those areas,” Kelly said.
Unlike other synthetic drugs, flakka can have far more lethal consequences. There is also a high potential for overdose and addiction, he said.
“There really is no specific gender or race this is targeting,” he said. “People who are using it are dying, and there’s a variety of people dying.”
The drug is one of the most potent that exists today, said Paul Doering, a University of Florida pharmacy professor. He said flakka makes any previous version look like baby aspirin.
“I think the nickname that they coined for it in Broward County explains it all,” Doering said. “They call it five-dollar insanity.”
Doering said that chemists create powerful drugs like flakka by tampering with molecules to create extremely potent products. He said because there aren’t dosing instructions available for flakka, users can easily overdose, leading to extreme side effects.
“The kinds of things that happen to people are agitation, psychotic behavior, suicide, homicide, and antisocial behaviors,” Doering said.
People don’t understand the risks involved in consuming these drugs, he said. So in order to handle its rising popularity, he believes the best strategy is to get information out to the community.
Flakka is a relatively new drug, so there is little information available on its short-term or long-term risks, Doering said. Similar drugs have been known to damage receptors in the brain that handle serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to happiness.
People abuse flakka and other similar drugs because it makes users feel good or different in the short term, which leads to its addiction, he said.
“It’s kind of a vicious cycle, and I’m surprised that this drug has caught on so well,” Doering said. “I would hope that university students and others have good judgement to make rational and informed decisions.”