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Flakka Addiction | Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Flakka is the name for a street stimulant, a designer drug that has been applied to several similar drugs, but it’s most typically used to refer to α-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone or α-PVP. Flakka is in the class of drugs known as cathinones, which is a naturally occurring alkaloid found in shrubs. As a designer drug, flakka was created in a lab, and it’s used as a way to achieve similar effects to other stimulants like cocaine and MDMA. Finding a synthetic replacement for illicit drugs is appealing to drug dealers trying to subvert the law. These drugs are traded on what’s called the gray market.

They are unknown and uncategorized by legislation and, therefore, not technically illegal to buy and sell. It is illegal to sell them as drugs, but dealers get around this by selling them as innocuous items such as plant food or bath salts. Since it has started to be sold, the federal government has categorized α-PVP as a Schedule I drug.

What Is Flakka?

Flakka is also called the zombie drug because of its ability to cause jerky movements, disturbing behavior, paranoia, and sometimes rage. People who take an excessive amount of the drug can start to experience their muscle fibers dissolving into their bloodstream. The result is uncontrollable movement, a staggered gait, and panic. Powerful hallucinations and frightening delusions can activate a user’s fight-or-flight response. 

This often causes people to take off running, and it sometimes causes acts of violence. In the past decade, as flakka came to be used more regularly, there have been a few instances of violent murders that ended in cannibalism. Including the two separate cases of Austin Harrouff and Rudy Eugene, both of whom killed and tried to cannibalize their victims when they were found. The cases were both linked to flakka in the media, but tox-screens revealed inconclusive results, and the drug could not be connected to the events.

Because of the disturbing nature of a flakka high, police and new media say there are parallels with the crimes. And other instances of violence have been connected to flakka in the past.

How Does Flakka Work?

There is a lot we don’t know about flakka, but it doesn’t often result in addiction, but not necessarily because it’s not addictive. Some have suggested that flakka may be even more addictive than methamphetamine. Like meth and cocaine, flakka is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor, which means it stops the body’s natural process of removing those chemicals from your system, especially dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that regulates feelings of excitement and energy. Flakka causes a build-up of this chemical, which can result in feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia. It’s so powerful that it can cause delusions and even hallucinations. 

Since it works similarly to cocaine and meth, it can be addictive if you use it regularly. However, most people who use the drug find that it is extremely unpleasant, and using it a second and third time is rare. Still, abuse and addiction are still a threat when it comes to this powerful drug.

What Are the Signs of Flakka Addiction?

The early stages of a substance use disorder can be difficult to notice, but addiction is difficult to keep hidden for long. If you are worried about a loved one, there some signs and symptoms that may make it clear that there is a problem. Strong stimulants like flakka can be difficult to hide because of the extreme symptoms and behavior that might cause.

Signs that someone has used flakka include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions 
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tics and uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Hallucinations

If you have been using flakka, and you are worried that you might be developing a substance use disorder, the first sign is usually a growing tolerance. Tolerance is when your brain and body get used to the drug that you’ve introduced multiple times. If doses feel weaker than they once did, or if you need to compensate with higher doses, it means you’ve used enough that your body has adapted. 

If you continue using, you run the risk of developing a chemical dependency, which is when your body comes to rely on a drug to maintain normalcy. This can come with withdrawal symptoms that cause physical and psychological discomfort. Since stimulants tend to affect mood and perceived energy levels, flakka withdrawal symptoms often affect you psychologically. Common symptoms include depression, irritability, mood swings, suicidal thoughts or actions, insomnia, seizures, and heart arrhythmia.

Flakka can cause heart problems and complications both during active use and during withdrawal. Stimulants can increase your heart’s rhythm, and powerful stimulants can have a significant effect. If you’ve been using a stimulant like flakka, and you feel abnormal palpitations or irregular heart rhythm, you should speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
Finally, addiction is on the severe end of the spectrum for substance use disorders. It’s characterized by the compulsive use of a drug despite serious consequences like legal trouble, job loss, or health problems.

What Is Involved in Flakka Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment is a process that involves the assessment and treatment of your medical, psychological, and social needs with the intention of leading you to long-term recovery from a substance use disorder. When you first enter a treatment program, you will go through an intake and assessment process that’s designed to pinpoint your most important needs. If you have pressing medical needs, related or unrelated to withdrawal, you will need to go through medical detox.

Medical detox involves 24 hours of medically managed treatment from medical professionals that lasts for about a week, depending on your needs. Detox is ideal for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms and any other urgent medical needs you might have. Illicit drug use is tied to infectious diseases, and flakka abuse can often lead to injuries which might need to be addressed during treatment. Once you are stabilized, clinicians can help connect you to the next level of care that’s right for you.

If you have medical, psychological, or social needs that require a high level of care, you may be placed in an inpatient treatment program. Inpatient treatment also involves residential services that can keep you out of neighborhoods or a home environment with high drug availability.

When you can live on your own, you may progress to an outpatient treatment program. Outpatient is separated into intensive outpatient treatment (involving more than nine hours of clinical services every week) and outpatient care (involving less than nine hours every week). 

After treatment, your facility may include an aftercare program, which can connect you to community resources that will help you pursue recovery after treatment.

Flakka Abuse Statistics

Start Your Flakka Addiction Treatment Today

Flakka abuse and addiction is a serious disorder, but there is help available to treat it. Though addiction is chronic, treatment can lead you to a life of recovery. To learn more about flakka dependence and how it can be treated, speak to an Ocean Breeze Recovery specialist. Call 855-960-5341 to hear about your treatment options and how you can get started today. Addiction may be difficult to overcome, but you don’t have to go through it on your own.

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American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? Retrieved from

Main, D. (2016, March 29). Flakka Is More Addictive Than Meth, Study Suggests. Retrieved from

Sullum, J. (2016, May 05). The Legend Of The Miami Cannibal Provides Lessons In Shoddy Drug Journalism. Retrieved from

WebMD. (2013, September 17) 'Bath Salts' Led to 23,000 ER Visits in One Year. Preidt, R. Newsday Reporter from

Ann Forensic Res Anal.(2017 Mar 21) Synthetic Cathinones: A Brief Overview of Overviews with Applications to the Forensic Sciences, Glennon, R.A., Dukat, M. from

Science Direct. (2019, March) Drug and Alcohol Dependence Pages 86-90.“Flakka” use among high school seniors in the United States, Palamar J.J., Caroline Rutherford, C,, Keyesbc, K. from

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