Designer drug wreaking havoc across America

Jul 14, 2015 3:51 PM by News Staff

A cheap new designer drug called flakka is causing havoc in cities across America.

It can cause bizarre and violent reactions when people take it and has been found in Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, California and Florida so far, reports CBS News' Mark Albert.

Videos posted online show what can happen when flakka takes over.

"I am God! I am God! Burn in Hell! I am life!" one person rants in a video.

Its effects can include psychotic breakdowns, hallucinations and indiscriminate violence.

In June, an 82-year-old great-grandmother died weeks after being randomly attacked in her Riviera Beach, Florida, home by a man who, police say, was high on flakka.

Another man impaled himself on a fence at the Fort Lauderdale police station while on the drug.

Mike Haney, who lives near Chicago, said he doesn't remember what he did for two days after taking flakka.

"I was completely out of my mind. I could have killed somebody. I could have killed myself," Haney said.

Flakka, also known as gravel, is a synthetic stimulant, a cousin of the drug found in baths salts. It's an ever-changing mixture of various substances and can come in a capsule or powder. Users can smoke, swallow or inject the drug.

Florida is now the "epicenter" of the outbreak with 25 flakka-related deaths in South Florida's Broward County in the past 10 months alone.

Special agent Kevin Stanfill in Miami is leading the DEA's flakka fight.

"We have individuals high on flakka that are coming up to parents with their kids, trying to take their kids," Stanfill said. "They're not just getting high, they're going out and hurting other people. You don't see that with a lot of the other drugs like you are with flakka right now."

Stanfill said flakka is often imported from China. It's up to 10-times cheaper than the synthetic drug cocktail "Molly"; just three to five dollars per hit, and easier to get.

Fakka can be ordered online and delivered to your door. It's described as more powerful than heroin or cocaine and users are often numb to pain.

"I feel for those officers who are going to be out on patrol and they roll up on somebody and they are on flakka and they have that superhuman strength," Stanfill said. "When it takes six police officers to hold them down, that's a problem."

Brad Lamm, an addiction interventionist in Los Angeles, had no flakka patients at his practice as of just eight weeks ago. Now, they've had a dozen people calling for help.

"The drug takes away all the inhibitions and also erases the body's ability to clamp down on dopamine and serotonin, so you just feel like you can do anything," Lamm said. "I think we're going to see waves of this that are going to be very, very devastating."

Lamm said even proactive parents who give their teens urine tests after suspecting drug use are stunned. Those who make flakka are constantly changing its makeup, so as to fool common tests.

"The old reliable drug test, you know at the corner store, will not show positive for this drug. They're not even able to test for it yet. It's just not included. It's ahead of the curve," Lamm said.

Lamm said his patients on this drug are taking several weeks longer to recover than those on other bath salts, or even crystal meth.

Often, the key ingredient in flakka is known as alpha-PVP

The DEA's Miami division told CBS News it has already seized over three times the amount of alpha-PVP in the first six months of this year than it seized in all of last year.

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