Synthetic drug ‘flakka’ behind bizarre crimes in US

One man ran naked through a Florida neighbourhood, tried to have sex with a tree, and told police he was the mythical god Thor.

Another ran nude down a busy city street in broad daylight, convinced a pack of German shepherds was pursuing him.

Two others tried separately to break into the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. They said they thought people were chasing them; one wound up impaled on a fence.

The common element to these and other bizarre incidents in Florida in the last few months is ‘flakka’, an increasingly popular synthetic designer drug. Also known as ‘gravel’ and available for $5 or less a vial, it is a growing problem for police after bursting on the scene in 2013.

Flakka is the latest in a series of synthetic drugs that include ecstasy and bath salts, but officials say flakka is even easier to obtain in small quantities through the mail. Flakka’s active ingredient is a chemical compound called alpha-PVP, which is on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of the controlled substances most likely to be abused. It is usually made overseas in countries such as China and Pakistan.

Flakka, a derivative of the Spanish word for a thin, pretty woman, is usually sold in a crystal form and is often smoked using electronic cigarettes, which are popular with young people and which give off no odour. It can also be snorted, injected, or swallowed.

“I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity,” said Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor in Fort Lauderdale.


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