Introducing Flakka: The New Cocaine

By  | 

Flakka, or gravel as it is also known thanks to its composition of small crystals, is a new drug sweeping across the nation. The epidemic originated in South Florida in 2014 and now has been linked to many deaths, arrests, and overdoses throughout the country. The synthetic drug is first produced in China and sometimes Pakistan, before being shipped to the United States. From here, it is sold on the streets for a very low price as compared to other popular drugs with similar reactions, such as cocaine and bath salts, the latter of which infamously caused chaos a few years ago.

What exactly is flakka? It is usually made from Alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic type of cathinone, a stimulant that is made from the Khat plant. This plant grows in the Middle East and Somalia, and its leaves are often chewed to achieve a slight high. The chemical cathinone can be so strong that it sometimes delivers harsher effects than crystal meth. Flakka is already very dangerous to take alone, but if a user were to take more than a single dose or to combine it with other drugs, then there could be disastrous results. It was also reported that this drug can be extra harmful because it doesn’t always arrive pure, and so it sometimes is laced with other deadly drugs, which would only intensify the effects on the user.

The use of flakka in the United States is strongest in South Florida, where it is believed to have first emerged. South Florida is sometimes known as a haven for drug users given how easy it is to access substances in this area since so many are imported there. Cases involving this powerful drug have also been reported in many other states, such as Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee. Flakka has reportedly led to 27 deaths in the past eight months alone in Broward County, Florida. There also three or four hospitalizations a day in this county because of the drug.

The name is derived from the Spanish term “la flaca,” which is slang for a beautiful, slender woman. Authorities believe that the drug is shipped by boat to South America and then it is brought to Florida through the Caribbean. Given Florida’s extensive coastline, authorities are having extreme difficulty trying to pinpoint where exactly the drug enters the country. Many law enforcement agencies have joined the search for flakka traffickers, dealers, and users.

Flakka can be taken in many different ways, including snorting, ingesting, smoking, injecting, or vaping it using electronic cigarettes. Experts say that the the slightest difference in the amount taken can lead to drastic results. Flakka can induce a wide variety of symptoms on its users, some of which can cause death or severe damage to the body, such as hyperthemia, which is why people often take off their clothes when they are high on the drug. It can also induce paranoia, making users think that they are being chased, or giving them the illusion that they have super strength. Doctors have also stated that it can cause irreparable brain damage or stroke-like symptoms. Some users have even suffered kidney failure and will likely have to be on dialysis for the rest of their lives.

This drug has been linked to a wide variety of odd arrests and brutal incidents throughout the country. NBC Miami has reported many different arrests related to flakka, such as one mom who made headlines for abandoning her one-year-old daughter after smoking it. Multiple instances of people running around naked claiming they were being chased have been reported, or there was the case of one man who tried to have sex with a tree after taking the drug. One man tried to break into a police department because he thought that the mob was after him, while another man was impaled by a fence when he tried to climb over it to get to the police precinct because he thought he was being chased.

This drug has proven to be incredibly dangerous and has taken the country by storm, as it has led to countless overdoses, a plethora of injuries, many bizarre crimes, and numerous deaths. It is cheap to buy compared to other narcotics, although it is so potent that it can induce an extreme level of insanity in its users shortly after being consumed. Educating the public on just how detrimental an effect this drug can have is the top priority of police and drug prevention agencies alike. Police in Florida have even begun dispensing flakka-detection kits to officers, sending drug-detection dogs to mail offices, and also training officers on how to look for signs of mania.

Toni Keddell
Toni Keddell is a member of the University of Maryland Class of 2017 and a Law Street Media Fellow for the Summer of 2015. Contact Toni at



Send this to friend