Medical Moment: Flakka

Medical Moment: Flakka

Telluride Inside… and Out is proud to feature the Telluride Medical Center’s MEDICAL MOMENT, a weekly column that answers common medical questions in pop culture. Have a question for the doctors? Click here to send.

Dr. Paul Koelliker answers this week’s question: What is Flakka and why should you care?

Dr Paul Koelliker, NEW




Flakka is also called gravel and is similar to “bath salts.”  It is a stimulant whose main ingredient is alpha-PVP (alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone), but it is not subject to manufacturing oversight and may contain a variety of substances.

Flakka is a synthetic cathinone similar to the drug in the plant Khat. It is a stimulant and can cause erratic behavior when a person is intoxicated. It is mainly manufactured in China and India and has recently been outlawed by the federal government. Florida and Texas have had high rates of problems due to Flakka, but cases can be found nationwide.

Users of Flakka experience sensations of euphoria and increased energy. More serious intoxication causes paranoia, psychosis, seizures, dangerous elevations in body temperature, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and even death.

Flakka can cause a condition called “excited delirium”: users become agitated, often violent, and psychotic. Users in this state often harm themselves or others. The stress on the body from excited delirium can cause a host of medical complications including death.

Flakka is addictive and so users need increasingly higher doses to achieve the wanted euphoria. Escalating doses increase the risk of complications and violent behavior. Police and medical personnel who have dealt with patients on Flakka describe them as acting like zombies from a horror movie.

Flakka can be eaten, snorted, injected, dissolved in the mouth, smoked, and vaped in e-cigarettes. Vaping has many authorities concerned because of its ease of use and conceal ability.

Part of the appeal of Flakka is that it will often not show up on standard drug tests; more sophisticated labs that are less readily available are needed to detect its presence.

Flakka is a more recent version of the synthetic amphetamine class that includes bath salts. It is obtainable online and can have disastrous effects for the user.

Don’t use Flakka.

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