What is Flakka?
Authorities have speculated the drug “flakka” could be connected to the gruesome case of a Florida couple who were fatally stabbed Monday before the 19-year-old suspect allegedly tried to eat one of their faces.
Austin Harrouff, a Florida State University fraternity brother, was found allegedly attempting to bite off chunks of John Joseph Stevens III’s face in a Tequesta neighborhood, law enforcement officials confirmed. Stevens, 59, and his 53-year-old wife Michelle Karen Mishcon had been allegedly stabbed multiple times by Harrouff, authorities said.
What Is Flakka?
Flakka is a psychoactive stimulant that has been linked to bizarre behavior and drug overdoses, and it is also known in some parts of the country as “gravel” because it looks similar to the small stones used in fish tanks.
“It is a synthetic cathinone, which is the category of synthetic drugs that are often referred to as ‘bath salts,’ ” Jim Hall, an epidemiologist in the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University.
Flakka is a stimulant, which increases alertness, attention and energy, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Stimulants – which also include cocaine and ecstasy – are sometimes referred to as “uppers.”
“Many users didn’t like the bad effects they had from the drug,” Hall says, “but nonetheless were very compelled by compulsion to keep using the drug, as it’s addictive.”
Flakka was produced first in China, moving to the streets of Europe and the U.K. before eventually crossing into U.S. borders, Hall says.
The drug is sold in white or pink crystal chunks, which are “foul-smelling,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Its street name draws from a hispanic colloquial term, which generally refers to a “slender, elegant woman who charms all whom she meets,” Hall says.
How Is Flakka Consumed?
Flakka comes in many forms, and is sometimes even laced in marijuana cigarettes. It can also be vaporized in e-cigarette devices, Hall says, but is most typically dissolved in the mouth or snorted.
Hall says that the drug is particularly popular with people in their 20s and 30s, but is used across all age spectrums.
What Other Reactions or Side-Effects Can Flakka Cause?
Adverse effects of flakka can include severe agitation, aggressiveness and a medical condition known as “excited delirium.”
Excited delirium is when “the body temperature climbs to 105 degrees or higher and the individual becomes extremely paranoid, and often rips off their clothes because of the high heat.”
Where Have We Seen Flakka Before?
Hall that it can be sold for as low as $3-5 a dose, and is quite addictive.
“Alpha PVP became illegal in early 2014 in the U.S. even before we had any major episodes with it,” he says. “It first really came on to the scene intensely in the fall of 2014 in Broward County, Florida, and then had a year-long period of active use and problems.”
In Broward County last year, a Florida man was reportedly found running through the streets, naked, after smoking flakka, according to the Sun Sentinel. The Sun Sentinel, reported, at the time, that the Drug Enforcement Administration said flakka cases grew from zero in 2010 to 670 by 2014.
Harrouff has been charged with one count of aggravated battery, and will be charged with home invasion and two counts of murder, authorities said.
He does not have a lawyer and has not entered a plea – but, he could die in the hospital as a result of either “sustained trauma” from officers or a drug overdose.