Fort Lauderdale and the Disappearance of Flakka

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One question that many locals living and working in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area have been curiously asking is, “Why is Flakka disappearing?”

As it turns out, this issue might have a simpler answer than many might have assumed, and it all starts with a 10-hour flight over to the capital of Flakka and bath salts, the largest producer of the chemicals that compose it: China.

The “zombie” drug has made international news in the previous years, as cases from its use began to rise rapidly from 2011 to 2015. While this drug has been reported about throughout the country and the world, few places have taken such a heavy toll as South Florida has, more specifically Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, Florida.

Known as the home for the “Flakka craze,” Fort Lauderdale law enforcement and mental health officials have long been talking about the dangers and issues that Flakka use has posed for the growing city by the water. One can hardly look up information about the drug itself without being flooded by news of some crazed and high individual getting shot on the sunny streets of South Florida.

However, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office has reported a recent massive decrease in the numbers of Flakka-related cases, to the point that one deputy said in a Washington Post article, “This is incredible. I can’t find even one person,” when asked to comment about the radical disappearance of Flakka as he searched the alleys and dens where he used to find dealers and users alike.

Fort Lauderdale and China, an Unlikely Partnership

While it might seem abstract and out of place, South Florida’s severe Flakka problem—otherwise known as bath salts—actually has its origins in China.

According to a Washington Post article, buying Flakka online from Chinese vendors tended to be an “open secret,” which certainly contributed to the vast majority of reported Flakka incidents. With the click of a button, one could place an order of different bath salts and have it delivered to their front porch, all of which is legal. It was discovered afterward that sellers who bought the drug online later resold it on the streets with a markup value of nearly 300 percent.

Eventually, a special task force was created in partnership with the DEA and local law enforcement authorities to fight the growing Flakka epidemic across South Florida. Because it was on the streets, combating it was found to be ineffective, so another task force was created to push back against Chinese authorities in an effort to halt production on their end.

Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University quickly noticed the rising usage of the destructive drug and made sure to bring up the Chinese connection in several news interviews in an attempt to bring more national attention to it.

“We were in an emergency scenario”— Jim Hall, epidemiologist

With the support of the US Department of Treasury, several sanctions were imposed on one specific drug producer in China: Bo Peng. Throughout the investigation conducted by several agencies—led by the Drug Enforcement Agency—151 people were eventually arrested on counts of distributing lab-produced synthetic chemicals.

By November 2015, several Florida law enforcement officers—including local, state, and federal authorities—along with Jim Hall, visited China on a delegate mission to plead their case for the crackdown on several different drugs, from fentanyl (synthetic heroin) to Flakka.

After the visit to China, the Chinese government listened proactively and instilled many different bans and stricter laws regarding their regulations with synthetic chemicals. This resulted in an almost immediate effect on South Florida, mainly in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.

Lt. Ozzy Tianga, a deputy for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Flakka expert, said that when he’s back on the streets, patrolling the Flakka dens he used to commonly search, he’s noticed they’ve all basically been abandoned. “They look like artifacts from a different time,” he said in the Washington Post article.

While Flakka is certainly still on the streets of South Florida, what remains is most likely the last batches of a dying trend. However, what exactly is Flakka?

What Is Flakka?

Flakka gains its name from a Spanish slang meaning “skinny female or girl,” not the rapper, Waka Flocka Flame, who many tend to believe its name originated from.
Also known as “bath salts,” it is a synthetic stimulant drug that comes mostly in crystallized form. The main component that causes the psychoactive properties in Flakka is alpha-PVP.

Due to its rock and crystallized form, Flakka can be snorted, smoked, eaten, injected, and more recently vaporized. Unfortunately, vaporizing the drug has been linked to the more commonly reported cases of psychotic episodes due to its immediate introduction into the bloodstream. These episodes are also known as “excited delirium.”

During the delirium suffered by Flakka, one of the first signs is unbearable heat, which causes users to remove all of their clothing. During these psychotic episodes, those who are high exhibit signs of aggression, deafness, paranoia, hallucinations, and even attempts at suicide.

While not everyone goes through an excited delirium from taking Flakka, chronic users of the drug often exhibit severe—sometimes terminal—damage to their kidneys. Heart attacks also remain common for first-time users.

Seeking Treatment

Drugs like Flakka and other bath salts are extremely severe in their immediate effects on a user. All it takes is using the drug one time for it to dramatically change the life of its user and those around them. When users exhibit the psychotic episodes tied to Flakka, the problem lies within their inability to act rationally. It is a time that users leave the plain of reality and “lose their minds.” During those episodes, murder, suicide, and cannibalism have been reported.

No two drugs are alike; some are critically worse than others. Flakka and bath salts are both higher on the list of “drugs that should be avoided at all costs” because of its drastic and life-altering effects.

If you or a loved is suffering from Flakka or any drug abuse and addiction, seek help immediately to avoid any long-term effects from becoming permanent. Don’t let yourself or a loved one become another statistic when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse. Our addiction specialists are available 24-7 ready to assist you immediately. Click or call us today at (844) 557-8575.

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