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Flakka Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 1, 2019

Flakka is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant. Its effects on the dopamine system give the user an intense high making it highly addictive and difficult to quit.

Flakka, also being sold as “gravel,” is an unregulated synthetic street drug similar to bath salts or crystal meth, and containing alpha-PVP. This chemical compound acts as a stimulant and its effects on the dopamine system make it highly addictive. It can also be derived from methamphetamine and other substances, making it particularly unreliable and dangerous. More than 126 deaths occurring in the state of Florida since 2013, where it has grown in popularity.

Flakka is being used with vaporizers “vapes” and e-cigarettes. It is also snorted, smoked, or ingested, despite the potential tissue damage, especially in cases where other unknown substances exist.

Why Are People Using Flakka?

Flakka is being advertised as a substitute for crystal meth, and at a quarter of the price. The drug is also easily hidden from view and ingested when ingested using a vape device or e-cig, though a foul smell is associated with the drug. The drug is also easily obtained via online medium or from street peddlers. Unfortunately, many versions for flakka are being pushed, with incidents of substances like ammonia nitrate being sold in place of the drug, can have immediate and devastating consequences.

Why Flakka Is So Addictive

Flakka contains a schedule one substance, alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone, (alpha-PVP) a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor, with effects similar to cocaine. With the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine blocked, more of these pleasure-causing and focus-targeted neurotransmitters are available in the brain.

In laboratory mice, introduction of alpha-PVP blocked reuptake of norepinephrine-dopamine completely, leading to some troubling behaviors and making the drug intensely addictive. Its effects on humans are no less bizarre, with users becoming aggressive, agitated, paranoid, and completely out of touch with reality. (Recently, a Florida man was arrested after firing off a gun on the rooftop of a building while in the nude.)

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This free flow of dopamine generated when someone uses flakka is one of the primary factors for addiction risk. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter released at the nucleus accumbens, otherwise known as the reward or pleasure center of the brain. The release of dopamine is normally stimulated during activities relating to life-sustaining like eating foods night in nutrients, proteins, and fats, drinking water, exercising, and sex. Dopamine generates feelings of contentment, satiation, and euphoria at elevated levels.

A compound like alpha-PVP, stimulates an unnatural and unsustainable level of dopamine and can lead to significant and immediate cravings for the substance, along with severe withdrawal symptoms with cessation of the drug.

Adverse Health Effects Of Flakka

Apart from dopamine, the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, or the stress hormone is also increased. Norepinephrine is normally released when the body is experiencing stress or facing a threat. It is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, when a person is in a life-threatening situation. Release of norepinephrine increases blood flow and oxygen to vital organs and muscle tissue, leading to increased focus, vasoconstriction, an increase in glucose available for muscles, and breath rate. Additionally, the hormone shuts down non-essential functions toward survival like digestion and cell growth, while it prepares the body to fight or flee.

Increasing levels of norepinephrine to unnatural levels can alter heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure to life-threatening levels, cause profuse sweating, and severe anxiety. With continued use of drugs like flakka, the body’s natural levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine are reduced.

Adverse health effects include damage to muscle tissues, lung damage, if inhaled as a vapor or smoke, kidney failure, dangerous cardiovascular effects including arrhythmia, muscle spasms, erratic and violent behaviors, and neurotoxicity. Changes in the brain can trigger intense hallucinations, complete loss of touch with reality, paranoia, anxiety, insomnia, violent and aggressive behaviors, psychosis, excited delirium, and death.

Adverse Health Effects Associated With Flakka Use:

  • Muscle tissue damage
  • Lung damage
  • Permanent kidney damage
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Erratic and violent behaviors
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Violent and aggressive behaviors
  • Psychosis
  • Excited delirium
  • Death

Withdrawal From Flakka

Withdrawals from stimulants like those commonly contained in flakka include depression, extreme irritability, anxiety, insomnia, severe fatigue, night sweats, weight gain, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Someone who has been abusing flakka will benefit from medical monitoring and management of withdrawals. Especially in cases of liver and tissue damage, or where suicide risk is high.

A Road to Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Get off street drugs and onto a road to recovery today. is your online resource for evidence-based, comprehensive treatment and professional support. Contact us to speak with someone today in confidence about rehab options to meet your individual needs and discover a more rewarding life in recovery.

See “Flakka Addiction” Infographic HERE

Flakka Addiction Infographic

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