Flakka sounds like it would be a good time. Named after a Spanish slang word for “pretty woman,” it seems like it would feel like a trip to the moon on gossamer wings, but the name is misleading: Flakka is a potent stimulant that turns people aggressive and violent, making them believe they have superhero strength. Unsurprisingly, it is also the cause of a rash of recent deaths in southern Florida.

The New York Times reports that the cheap synthetic substance (similar in some ways to bath salts) has been implicated in at least 18 deaths in one Florida county since September. Flakka’s appeal is that it’s cheap ($5) and long-lasting (up to three days per dose), but the side effects include hallucinations and paranoia coupled with violence.

From The New York Times:

In February, a 50-year-old homeless man tried to kick in the glass door at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department because he believed people were chasing him. In Melbourne this month, a 17-year-old girl ran down the street naked and covered in blood, screaming that she was Satan.

In Broward County, a man ran down a street wearing only sneakers, saying a pack of German shepherds was hunting him. Another person became impaled on a fence.

And if death isn’t in the cards, there are things worse than becoming impaled on a fence because you think the devil’s after you. Some people who have taken the synthetic drug have suffered kidney failure and incredibly dangerous body temperatures. And makers of the drug are just trying to make it more potent, according to The Times, to drive up its addiction potential.

Advertisement

What’s even more frightening is that law enforcement officials can’t keep up with the drug that’s sold in such small doses and so quickly that it’s in danger of destroying several low-income neighborhoods, where it originated after being imported to America. Unlike MDMA or cocaine, which can be found in clubs, Flakka is readily available for purchase by anyone with $5 and a wish to get high. And while may look like cocaine or meth to some (it comes in crystals), it’s much more potent, meaning that overdosing is easier. And once a user’s taken even a little more than they should they go into a state of “excited delerium” that, according to a Florida detective, “they can’t come back from.”


Contact the author at mark.shrayber@jezebel.com.