Flakka: The Zombie Drug
By Suzan Miller-Hoover, DNP, RN, CCNS, CCRN-K
A new synthetic drug, Flakka, also known as gravel and zombie drug is a new generation of “bath salts”. Bath salts are synthetic cathinones, of which Flakka is the most common. The natural form of cathinones comes from a plant called khat and is used as a stimulant in Africa and the Middle East (Solutions Recovery, 2019).
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (abbreviated as alpha-PVP) is a synthetic cathinone which produces a catatonic-like state in some people. This drug affects people in ways no other drug ever has. People who use it have gone on mad, violent, zombie-like rampages (Solutions Recovery, 2019).
Flakka has been classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I drug. These drugs are designated as having no medical uses at all; being highly prone to substance abuse, dangerous to use, unable to be used safely even under the supervision of a physician; and likely to produce the symptoms of physical or psychological dependence in people who abuse them for a significant length of time (Solutions Recovery, 2019).
The drug can be snorted, smoked, injected, or taken orally. The action of alpha-PVP appears to block the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine.
According to NIDA and the DEA, substances like Flakka were most often manufactured in Pakistan and China. Because this drug is so popular with the younger generation, Flakka manufacturing labs have opened in the states. However,
• The process of manufacturing Flakka is not controlled in any way
• Ingredients vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and within each manufacturer’s lab
o Users have no idea what drugs they are purchasing
• Other substances that may be added are:
o Ecstasy (MDMA)
o Crystal meth (methamphetamine)
o Other synthetic cathinones
• Gelatin and sugar may be added to make it look and taste like candy
(Solutions Recovery, 2019)
Side effects include:
• Immediate effects of euphoria, feelings of invulnerability, extreme stimulation, and a loss of inhibitions
• Increased heart rate or irregular heart rate, increased blood pressure, and increased potential for heart attack or stroke
• Increased body temperature, increased perspiration, and increased potential for dehydration
• Respiratory distress or renal failure
• Muscle spasms, tremors, and seizures
• Significant brain swelling may occur in some
• Issues with insomnia and a loss of appetite
• Increased anxiety, panic attacks, aggressive behavior, self-mutilation, and suicidality
• Psychosis (experiencing hallucinations and or delusions) and severe delirium
o Delirium occurring as a result of Flakka may initially be hallucinations, hyperactivity, confusion, and disorientation; however, some people also develop a hypoactive delirium, often referred to as a “zombie-like state,” where the person is catatonic, not responsive, and may be hallucinating, delusional, or significantly confused
• Overdose and death
• Marked neurological damage in chronic users
(Solutions Recovery, 2019)
The following 10 facts have been identified in Flakka users:
1. It makes people move like zombies; jerking and contorting in an unnerving and inhuman way
a. When somebody takes too much Flakka, the muscle fibers in their body start to dissolve into the bloodstream. Their bodies start moving uncontrollably. Sometimes, their heads will drop down below their shoulders; other times, their limbs will stiffen and shoot out. It’s like watching a marionette dance as its strings are cut or, perhaps, a glitch in a video game.
b. Flakka activates the fight-or-flight response in a person’s brain, often turning them irrationally violent. And at the same time, it causes paranoid, delusional fantasies—meaning their brains just come up with reasons to start fighting.br />
2. It has made people kill
a. Flakka rewires the brain chemistry. They have no control over their thoughts. They can’t control their actions and it seems to be universal that they think someone is chasing them.
3. It is ten times stronger than cocaine
a. The drug is ten times more potent than cocaine, so strong that taking any more than 0.1 grams can cause an overdose.
b. More than 0.1 grams of Flakka results in:
i. Body temperatures as high as 41 degrees Celsius (106 °F).
ii. Body temperatures as high as 41 degrees Celsius (106 °F).
c. “$5 Insanity”
i. The price of enough Flakka to affect you as much as $80 worth of cocaine.
4. It can stop the sensation of pain
5. It created a pandemic of dangerous, paranoid streakers
6. People overdosing on Flakka aren’t just violent; they’re completely fearless.
7. Flakka gives users super strength
8. It makes users suicidal
9. You can order it online
10. It hasn’t gone away
a. The United States government has managed to almost eliminate the supply in the US; however, Flakka is still available.
(Oliver, M., 2017)
World- wide, Flakka is spreading to Brazil, Scotland, Canada, Australia, Malta, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, among other countries.
(Oliver, M., 2017)
Flakka, the zombie drug, is very dangerous, don’t let the fact that it has almost been eliminated in the US lull you into a state of security. The use of this illegal drug is spreading among other countries and may once again become a health concern in the United States.
Oliver, M. (2017). 10 Horrifying facts about Flakka: The zombie drug.
Retrieved from: http://listverse.com/2017/10/17/10-horrifying-facts-about-Flakka-the-zombie-drug/
Solutions Recovery. (2019). What is Flakka made from? Main ingredients, cutting agents, and adulterants.
Retrieved from: https://www.solutions-recovery.com/synthetic-drugs/Flakka/how-its-made/
© 2019 AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.