Flakka Drug Vs. Bath Salts. Signs And Symptoms Of Flakka Drug Abuse, Withdrawal, and Overdose.

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What are Flakka Drugs?

Flakka drug (alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone), is a dangerous substance similar to the street drug commonly known as bath salts. It is a synthetic or designer drug. A designer drug refers to drugs that are created in a laboratory (typically, an “underground,” or secret, illegal lab). Flakka is usually white or pink and is found in crystal form.

A common street name for Flakka is “gravel,” because of its appearance. Designer drugs like flakka are not always pure, which means that the customer and dealer frequently don’t actually know what’s in the product. The dangerous effects of Flakka drug abuse bring a wide range of problems and require a licensed detox and rehab.

The drug can be snorted, smoked, vaped with an e-cigarette, injected, or taken orally. When heated up, it gives off a foul-smelling smoke characterized as smelling like dirty socks. Flakka drug’s action appears to cause the brain to flood with dopamine, a hormone that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and then block the transmitters, producing an intense feeling of euphoria. And because flakka, like bath salts, hang around in the brain for longer than cocaine, the extent of the destruction could be greater.

In 2014 it was banned and labeled as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [1]. These drugs have no medical uses at all, are prone to substances abuse, and are dangerous to use. It is likely to produce the symptoms of physical or psychological dependence in people who abuse them for a significant length of time. It is possible that the neurological effects can be permanent. Not only does the drug sit on neurons, but it could also destroy them.

According to CBS News [2], in 2013, there were a total of 126 reported deaths tied to synthetic cathinone in Florida. In addition, there have been recent reports of a designer drug marketed as flakka in Ohio, Houston, and Florida. This drug is one of many cathinone-based drugs produced in China and sold online to small-time drug gangs in the U.S. The business is lucrative.

Flakka Drug
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Flakka Drug Vs. Bath Salts

Flakka is just a newer-generation version of a type of synthetic drug called bath salts (synthetic cathinones). Bath salts are typically psychoactive designer drugs made in large volumes in foreign drug labs. Bath salts have the same effects as Flakka, such as hallucinations, panic attacks, and paranoia, leading to overdose and death. Flakka and bath salts are labeled as “not for human consumption” and sold under the ploy of calling it to plant food or jewelry cleaner. Because of its cost as well as its delirium-causing properties, it has been nicknamed “five-dollar insanity” on the street.

Signs And Symptoms Of Flakka Drug Abuse

Flakka can induce severe acute psychosis or excited delirium, making the user behave unpredictably. Its effects can last up to 4 hours, and associated medical problems include severe hyperthermia (with body temperatures above 109 degrees), rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown and muscle death), and acute kidney injury.

Symptoms Of Excited Delirium Include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperstimulation or Excitement
  • Hyperthermia
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia or Delusions
  • Acute Psychosis
  • Hypertension and Arrhythmia
  • Aggression and Agitation

Delusions have been linked to suicide and homicide among people intoxicated on flakka. It has also caused heart attacks due to its intense stimulant properties. The extreme release of neurotransmitters can lead to the destruction of neurons, contributing to brain damage. Intoxication and overdose symptoms are typically similar, although additional overdose symptoms include organ failure.

Flakka Drug Overdose

A small overdose of the drug can lead to a range of extreme symptoms: “excited delirium,” as experts call it. According to CNN [3], Florida seems to be particularly hard hit by flakka overdoses. From 2014 to 2015, there are about three or four hospitalizations a day in Broward County in South Florida and more on weekends. Flakka is a dangerous drug that has many bad side effects, mostly including changes in behavior or mood. Even slight overdoses of Flakka can cause:

  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Extreme Agitation
  • Jerking Muscle Movements
  • Delirious Thoughts
  • Hyperstimulation
  • hallucinations
  • Often Profound Paranoia
  • Profuse Sweating or shedding clothes due to very elevated body temperature

Flakka Drug Withdrawal

Synthetic cathinones such as Flakka are addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms to those who cease taking the drug. The brain will struggle to produce dopamine at an average rate.  The diminished dopamine levels on the brain cause these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and it can be worse without the guidance of a rehabilitation center or other treatment program.  Withdrawal symptoms, like signs of Flakka abuse, can be both physical and psychological and are often challenging to go through without assistance from professionals or medical intervention.

The Physical Signs Of Flakka Withdrawal Include:

  • Tremors
  • Problems Sleeping
  • Night Sweats

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal Thoughts

Flakka Drug Addiction Treatment

With so many negative side effects, cutting out on this drug can dramatically improve a person’s quality of life. But before anyone can begin the recovery process, they have to stop using Flakka and allow the substance to exit their body completely. Only then can the body begin to heal itself. Once the drug detox is done and drugs completely removed from the body, The person can start to reap the benefits of a life free from the adverse side effects of synthetic cathinones (flakka) usage.

Following detox, most clients will receive recommendations to continue with their addiction treatment. Any addiction treatment program for synthetic cathinones should be integrated with individual or group therapy, mixed with non-addictive medications as needed, to reduce anxiety and depression.

Behavioral Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can improve individuals’ behavior. CBT targets negative and maladaptive thought patterns as it promotes positive emotions and beliefs, while DBT helps individuals address conflicting impulses so they can make healthy choices. Both therapies treat substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and other mood issues. Therapy also empowers patients to identify, avoid and mitigate cues that trigger drug cravings.

Flakka Drug
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As with all addictions, health care providers should screen for co-occurring mental health conditions. While there are no FDA-approved medicines for synthetic cathinone addiction, there are medicines available for common co-occurring conditions.

Individual And Group Counseling

Addiction and mental health counseling occur in both individual and group settings. One-on-one treatment sessions may address unresolved trauma, unconscious conflicts, and specific struggles, while group sessions often involve training in life skills, stress management, conflict resolution, and social connections. Group counseling also gives individuals the chance to share their thoughts and experiences to develop social support, which is important for lasting recovery.

Find The Right Primary Mental Health Treatment with Co-Occurring Addiction Diagnosis

During your rehabilitation, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first.  If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.


[1] DEA – https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/flakka-alpha-pvp

[2] CBS News – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/flakka-floridas-dangerous-new-drug-trend/

[3] Flakka DrugWe Level Up