A few years ago, horror stories of people under the influence of bath salts flooded the news, like the man in Miami who chewed off another man's face in a drug-induced zombie-like attack. Suppliers have found new ways to skirt the laws that ban designer drugs with a drug so new, it hasn't been banned yet: Flakka. Flakka contains a synthetic amphetamine like the cathinones in other bath salts.
Flakka causes "excited delirium," according to Dr. Robert Glatter in Forbes, which includes seemingly superhuman strength, paranoia, hallucinations, excessive sweating and an abundance of manic energy. CBS News reported that recently, a man high on Flakka in Florida tried to break down the front door of a police precinct, another man impaled himself while trying to scale a fence around the police station and in Lake Worth, a naked man armed with a gun stood on a rooftop and yelled, "I feel delusional, and I'm hallucinating!"
Flakka comes in a crystalline-form like methamphetamines. Flakka can be swallowed, injected or smoked - commonly in an e-cigarette, which makes it easy to smoke in public without any suspicion. The effects last three to four hours, according to Glatter.
The real danger comes in how the drug acts as a re-uptake inhibitor of dopamine and norepinephrine, both important chemicals for nerve transmission. Flakka blocks the body's ability to re-uptake the chemicals, which causes concentrated levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body - causing "excited delirium."
While in the hyperactive state, the user's body temperature can elevate to 106 degrees Fahrenheit and leading to kidney failure. Flakka can also trigger "anxiety, paranoia, and delusions, leading to a psychotic state, characterized by a surge of violence associated increased strength and loss of awareness of reality and surroundings," according to Glatter.
"We're starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium," Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, told CBS News. "This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don't receive immediate medical attention they can die."
"On a scale of one to 10, Flakka is a 12," Lt. Dan Zsido of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office told 10 News Tampa Bay Sarasota. "It comes from a place where we don't know how it's being made, who's making it, and what's been added to it before it reaches the end user so it's very dangerous."
According to Glatter, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that Flakka cases have gone from zero (in 2010) to 85 cases reported (in 2012) to more than 670 (in 2014).