Dangerous new drug hits Florida streets

Synthetic drug known as Flakka or Gravel

By Harrison Barrus - Web news editor
File photo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After the synthetic drug bath salts hit the streets and reports of the dangerous and crazy things people did while high on the drug hit the mainstream, another synthetic drug is popping up that is giving law enforcement cause for concern.

Known as Flakka, the drug is coming over from Asia and popping up across Florida, with reports of people doing even crazier, more dangerous things then with the bath salts epidemic.

Kevin Stanfil with the DEA said that the drug started popping up when the DEA started their investigation into bath salts and synthetic marijuana but it didn't have a name yet.

"Back in 2012 when we were dealing with all the bath salts and synthetic marijuana it was the first time we saw it. It wasn't called Flakka, it was just a chemical we found when we were doing investigations on the bath salts," Stanfil said.

Stanfil said the main chemical in the drug comes mostly from China and is known as Alpha PDP and was outlawed in the U.S. in 2012.

Aside from the Alpha PDP, Stanfil said that other chemicals are popping up mixed in with the drug.

"Amazing thing about Flakka is that it's not just made up of Alpha PDP, we've found crushed up aspirin we've seen bug killer in there, we've actually seen chemicals in it that we don't know what they are, and we're talking about the DEA laboratory, and we don't know what's in this stuff," Stanfil said.

Officials said that Flakka, or Gravel as it's known outside of Florida, can look like crack cocaine, with a crystal or powdery appearance, and usually comes in a capsule.

The scary thing about Flakka, Stanfil said, is what people do when they are high on the drug.

"People they start going crazy, just like PCP and LSD did in the old days. They get super human strength, they get paranoid. We get instances here in Florida were a man bit his baby, we get instances here in southern Florida were a man put this baby under water," Stanfil said. "We've had people take their clothes off and run down the street, we've had people who smoke it and jump off buildings and land on metal fences impaling themselves. A lot of people who smoke this do really crazy things."

When it comes to treating or apprehending people who are high on the drug, things can get really dangerous for police and rescue units.

They are going to be on this adrenaline rush it's going to be hard to hold these people down so you're going to have use-of-force-issues. How do you get them medical treatment if you can't hold them down, they are fighting and biting and chewing? It's really going to present a lot of problems," Stanfil said.

Another major concern for Stanfil and the DEA is how cheap and easy it is to get hold of Flakka.

"A big thing that concerns us is that it's very cheap. You can buy Flakka for $3, you can't buy a big mac for three bucks, but you can buy Flakka for three bucks," Stanfil said. "You know they have targeted it towards our youth, towards the lower income, our homeless people, that's what we're seeing in south Florida, you know having teenagers myself they keep $5 on them at all time, that's enough to buy Flakka."

Stanfil also explained that aside from getting the drug from a dealer, people can easily find it online and have it delivered right to their door.

As the summer kicks off and kids are out of school, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has even released a warning to parents to be on the lookout for the drug to help keep kids safe.

"Flakka causes delusions, hallucinations and can increase body temperature to a dangerous level. Parents should talk to their children about this deadly synthetic drug and be aware of what their children are searching for and buying online," Bondi.

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