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Monday, May 25, 2015

Police in Florida Grapple With a Cheap and Dangerous New Drug - FLAKKA

MAY 24, 2015

MIAMI — A hazardous new synthetic drug originating in China is being blamed for 18 recent deaths in a single South Florida county, as police grapple with an inexpensive narcotic that causes exaggerated strength and dangerous paranoid hallucinations.

On Thursday, the Fort Lauderdale police killed a man, reportedly high on the man-made street drug, alpha-PVP, known more commonly as flakka, who had held a woman hostage with a knife to her throat.

Police departments around the state, and especially those near Fort Lauderdale, have been called to a growing number of situations involving people high on the drug who were convinced that packs of dogs or people were chasing them.
Flakka, which got its name from a Spanish colloquial term for a pretty, enticing woman, is a synthetic cathinone that mimics the khat plant grown in Africa.

Mr. Hall describes Flakka as “second-generation bath salts,” a reference to previous formulations of the amphetamine-like stimulant.

Also known as gravel, flakka made a sudden and explosive entrance into South Florida’s illicit drug market about six months ago, particularly in poor neighborhoods, where drug users including homeless people were lured by the low price, $5 a dose.

Five major synthetic cathinones were banned federally and by most states in 2010. Flakka is illegal in the United States, and law enforcement authorities are working with officials in China for it to be outlawed there as well.

“Our supposition is that the original concept was to design it so it would be technically not illegal,” Mr. Hall said. “It appears they are now looking to also design the molecule to be even more potent and more addictive. Addiction is good for sales.”

But the law has not stopped its flow, Mr. Hall said.