Flakka is wreaking havoc in Florida, and many people still don't know what the dangerous substance is. The most noticeable feature of the synthetic drug is its ability to make people go violently insane.
In the latest flakka episode, a man in West Palm Beach, Florida, severely beat a 40-year-old woman he was smoking the drug with and threatened to kill her, but there are far stranger stories.
Another man on a flakka fit broke down hurricane-proof doors on a police station, according to CNN. Another woman ran through the streets screaming she was Satan while on a flakka trip.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, police encountered one man on flakka identifying himself as the God Thor and sexually harassing a tree. When police attempted to intervene, he attacked. Police tasers had no effect as the man tried to stab an officer with his own badge.
Still, the drug is so new regulators struggle to ban it, and communities don't know how to react.
So, what is "flakka?"
On the surface it sounds innocent enough -- the name "flakka" is Spanish for "pretty woman." But the drug, also known as gravel, creates a high similar to cocaine, and it is potentially more dangerous.
According to the Science Times, flakka is related to "bath salts," another dangerous drug banned in 2012. The substance binds to molecules on the surface of certain neurons, preventing them from regulating the amount of dopamine, serotonin, and mood-regulating neurotransmitters released into the brain.
As a result, the brain is flooded.
Considering the power of flakka, an overdose is easy, according to Jim Hall from the Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"It's so difficult to control the exact dose (of flakka). Just a little bit of difference in how much is consumed can be the difference between getting high and dying. It's that critical."
Flakka can be smoked, injected, or snorted and its high lasts one to seven hours. But unlike cocaine, it tends to linger in the brain, potentially destroying the neurons it attaches to. Likewise, the prolonged effects damage the kidneys even more than bath salts.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed a temporary ban on flakka while regulators try to figure out a permanent solution.
Still, dealers can evade the DEA by labeling flakka "not for human consumption." And considering that a dose goes for only $5, its popularity continues to spread. In addition, flakka, like many other synthetic drugs, is made in China and sold over the Internet or at gas stations, adding to the problems for police.
Researcher Lucas Watterson explained it will likely take several years for an effective federal ban on flakka, and by then dealers will have moved on.
"The problem is when one of these drugs is banned or illegal, the drug manufacturer responds by producing a number of different alternatives. It's sort of a flavor of the month."
[Image via Drug Enforcement Agency]