Flakka is a drug that has the capability of producing powerful hallucinogenic effects that can be compared to bath salts. It is a synthetic drug that dealers have given a new name, one that no one seems to know what it means or where it came from. A man on flakka was seen running naked through Ft. Lauderdale while another man on flakka attempted to break into the grounds of the police headquarters. Now dealers are being arrested with retail bags of flakka-laced candy that could threaten the lives of the children in southern Florida.
Local custom jeweler, named Henry, says that the drug has been around a lot longer than many authorities realize. He says that it is a cheap and powerful hallucinogenic that produces a high that is not like cocaine or marijuana. It is also cheaper than other street drugs.
As far as Fusion can tell, one of the first online mentions of flakka seems to be in August when it came up on a drug rehab center’s blog. However, the writer of the blog, according to Fusion, had stated that the drug was, “wreaking havoc on the streets of Florida,” because it is so cheap. Flakka can be taken in oral form, or it can be crushed and snorted, smoked or injected.
The Broward Sun Sentinel published a story in October claiming that since February, the county crime lab had seen over 100 cases of people who have tested positive for the active ingredient in flakka. The main ingredient in flakka is called alpha-PVP, which is a stimulant that was created in the 60s.
Now, alpha-PVP is manufactured by pharmaceutical plants overseas and shipped out worldwide. It was not added to the controlled substance list until January 2014, only after an emergency declaration came from the Justice Department to stop large quantities from entering the U.S. so easily.
The Broward Sun Sentinel reported that flakka costs $150 for an eighth of an ounce. Crystal meth is $450 for the same amount. Flakka attracts the impoverished drug addicts, as observed by the increased usage in low-income areas. Flakka does not attract one gender or race over any other.
John Cunha is a physician in the ER at Holy Cross hospital in Broward County and believes users consider flakka the new heroin or crack. Users have the illusion that it is a combination drug that will balance itself out. They will get high, but not too high, and when they come down from the drug they will not bottom out. There is a common myth on the streets that flakka is a mixture of crack and heroin, crack and meth or meth and heroin. It is, in fact, none of the above.
Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University and Hall, told CBS that the use of flakka can lead to a state of, “excited delirium.” The drug causes the individual to become psychotic; users often tear off their clothes and run violently into the streets. The drug can also give users an adrenaline-like strength, to such a degree that there have been experiences where it has taken up to five police officers to restrain a single person high on the drug. Once the police are able to restrain the individual, they must ensure the person receives immediate medical attention or they could die.
In the second week of May, it was discovered that flakka was coming from China. In March, DEA agents were warned by their British counterparts that there had been multiple packages of flakka headed for Palm Beach County, Florida. The packages, shipped from Hong Kong by a Chinese chemical company, were intercepted. Officials have learned that orders can be taken from multiple, easy access websites. Broward County, Florida has become “ground zero” for flakka in the U.S., according to two county officials. Fusion has confirmed that their sources show that China is responsible for almost all of the flakka coming into the United States. China is a known source of synthetic drugs, such as Molly (MDMA) and bath salts (MDPV), according to Broward County Detective William Schwartz.
China’s role in producing synthetic drugs has been going on for about seven years, as reported by the Independent newspaper from London. Independent reporters posed as customers to get inside a Shanghai drug facility in 2010. According to the facility’s owner, two years earlier the factory had been converted from a drug manufacturing plant, into a meth lab. The owner had been living in a luxury home with an SUV and seemed to care less about any drug overdoses his company may have contributed towards.
Now, five years later, Chinese chemists have taken note as to which chemicals have been banned from which countries. The chemists have made minor adjustments to the structure of the chemical compounds so they would be legal to ship, according to Schwartz. There are penalties for molly and bath salts that are severe in the U.S., yet drug manufacturers have remained a step ahead, fully aware of the U.S. drug laws, says Schwartz.
There have been drug-laced candies discovered in Miami-Dade County. Candy laced with meth and some sort of flakka-type drug was found in the sour candy that had been packaged for retail. A man from Bradenton has been arrested and accused of possession with the intent to distribute the narcotics-laced candy.
Jesus Casteyano, 53, also known as, Jesus Castellano, was arrested after he supposedly agreed to distribute over 500 grams of the candy. There are photos of the candy packaged for retail as evidence.
There was a second case of drug-laced candy that used a flakka-like drug that looks a lot like Sour Patch Kids. The county put out a community safety alert from the police department in Miami-Dade. Detectives confiscated two significantly large bags of individually wrapped candy in a drug investigation. Police said that the candy was overly sticky and was half-an-inch to one-and-a-half-inches in size. After the candy was analyzed, it was confirmed to contain the synthetic drug ethylone. Ethylone is a controlled substance similar to flakka.
Florida law enforcement has found a new trend in dealing deadly drugs as something else, candy. The managing director of the Poison Information Center in Tampa, Dr. Alfred Aleguas, said that July 10, 2015, was the first time he had heard of the drug-laced candy. He referred to Florida’s situation as a terrifying trend for many reasons, especially the items that attract children. A child could simply assume that the drug was candy and eat it without anyone knowing, threatening the child’s life.
Federal agents in Manatee County have found bright-colored packages of what appeared to be candy. Upon examination, the candy was found to contain methamphetamine. News Channel 8 showed the real candy and the drug-laced candy to parents and they were unable to tell the difference between the two.
Flakka is deadly. A man in Fort Lauderdale, while under the influence of flakka, experienced hallucinations and the adrenaline-type strength when he attempted to break into a store. Flakka puts people into a delirious state and it has the capability to raise the person’s body temperature to a dangerous level, which could cause kidney damage or failure. Flakka-laced candy is a life-threatening drug that could impact the children of Southern Florida.
D.C. lawmakers are currently reviewing a bill, Protecting Kids from Candy Flavored Drugs Act of 2015, amending the Controlled Substances Act to stop people from manufacturing, selling or having possession of any drug packaged to look like a candy or beverage. The new act, if passed, will enforce stronger penalties for violations. This new law will hopefully keep drug-laced candy out of the reach of the children in Southern Florida and no longer threaten their lives.
By Jeanette Smith
Fusion: A Complete Guide to Flakka, the Horrible Street Drug Terrorizing South Florida
Fusion: Flakka, Florida’s Horrible New Street Drug, is Coming From China
News Channel 8: Drug-laced Candies Prompt Warning from Florida Authorities
Photos Courtesy of:
Top Photo and Featured Image Courtesy of Mike Mozart’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Photo Courtesy of Sally Crossthwaite’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Third Photo Courtesy of epSos .ed’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License