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What Is Flakka?

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Flakka (alpha-PVP) is a synthetic drug sold on the streets that is similar to “bath salts” and very dangerous. Coming onto the drug scene around 2010, substance abusers use the drug flakka in hopes of experiencing extreme highs of euphoria and alertness. A flakka high has been compared to those from drugs like methcocaine, and MDMA. Flakka is produced to intentionally mimic these illicit drugs and is smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed.

In 2016, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported flakka as an emerging drug of concern that had seen recent surges in hospitalizations, deaths, and calls to poison control centers. Flakka and bath salts are chemically similar. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) designates both as “designer drugs” that fall under the synthetic cathinone class of drugs. These types of drugs are difficult for law enforcement to stay on top of because they are made from legal substances but combined in a way that makes them dangerous. As soon as the DEA pinpoints an ingredient and bans it, drug makers change the formula, substituting a substance that isn’t yet banned. 

Flakka also goes by another street name, gravel. The drug gets its name from its appearance, which is white, rock-like pebbles that resemble gravel or aquarium rocks. The drug has drastic effects on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, flooding the brain with them. This is what causes feelings of euphoria, but can also cause hallucinations, violent or erratic behavior, and have long-term effects on brain chemistry that put you at risk for psychological issues. 

woman who is addicted to flakka looking paranoid

Signs of Flakka Abuse

Any use of Flakka is concerning. This street drug is dangerous and can cause extreme violent behaviors and long-term physical and mental damage. Effects of flakka can be moderate to very erratic and odd behavior. Signs of flakka use include:

  • Euphoria
  • Energetic and stimulated
  • Heightened awareness
  • Paranoia
  • “Excited delirium”
  • Agitation
  • Aggression and violence
  • Delusions
  • High body temperature
  • Chattiness
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Hallucinations

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

What Is Flakka Withdrawal Like?

As with any drug of abuse, you should never attempt to detox without the help of medical professionals who can keep you safe, attend to medical emergencies, and make you as comfortable as possible. Withdrawal symptoms from flakka vary by individual and depend on factors like:

  • Physical and mental health
  • Co-occurring medical conditions or mental illnesses
  • How long you’ve been abusing flakka
  • If you’ve been abusing other substances as well (poly-drug use)

Withdrawing from flakka is similar to that of drugs like amphetamines and cocaine as well as other designer drugs such as bath salts. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Drug cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nasal congestion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures

Is Flakka Dangerous?

Yes. Flakka has been known to lead to long-term physical and psychological issues. Using the drug also puts you at risk for flakka overdose and can have profound effects on organs like the kidneys. Flakka abuse increases your risk of:

  • Kidney failure / renal failure
  • Hyperthermia
  • Delirium leading to dangerous behaviors
  • Self-injury or suicide
  • Heartbeat irregularities
  • Stroke
  • Heart tissue damage
  • Atrophy of muscles

How Do You Treat Flakka Addiction?

Addiction treatment for flakka abuse is similar to that of other substances. There may be a period of medically supervised detox if you’re having physical withdrawal symptoms. Otherwise, psychological withdrawal may be monitored and treated with medications as you begin group therapy and other recovery activities. 

In addiction treatment, you’ll learn about the reasons behind substance abuse and how to address them. For instance, many people who struggle with addiction have underlying co-occurring disorders like mental illness and trauma that fuel their drug and alcohol use. Behavioral health professionals and psychiatrists will provide treatment for these issues. You’ll also participate in a blend of individual and group therapy where you’ll develop healthy coping skills to deal with triggers and begin building a strong foundation for long-term sobriety.

Where Can You Get Treatment for Flakka Addiction?

Footprints to Recovery provides evidence-based treatment for substance abuse that’s motivating and engaging. We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options and work with a number of insurance providers. If you or a loved one is struggling, call us for a free, confidential consultation.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

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