Update on Flakka and other drugs – They are spreading – Stay pro-active

Parents need to be pro-active and stay updated on various drugs. Flakka, Synthetic Cannabinoids, Heroin, Molly, Krokodil are just a few.

Flakka is spreading.

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As reported on Monday July 13, 2015 in Kentucky.

Powerful street drug ‘flakka’ shakes Kentucky County

Kristina Goetz, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal 5:38 a.m. EDT July 13, 2015

Police in the small town of Vanceburg, Kentucky are on high alert after use of the illegal synthetic drug nicknamed “flakka” has increased.

VANCEBURG, Ky. — In six months, Ashley lost 50 pounds, blew through $15,000 of a settlement and sold her house for $700.

She lost feeling in her fingertips. Her hands turned raw and scaly, almost black. She was convinced her old man talked to people through the vents, that strangers lurked outside and that she was once in a high-speed chase — sirens blaring — with the law.

She stayed awake for nine straight days, rarely ate and drank even less. A stench clung to her body. In the shower, she could feel something seep out of the pores in her face. She never could get clean enough.

After all that, still, she chased it.

“You can’t stop,” she said. “It’s like crack cocaine. But it’s better.”

flakkaAlpha-PVP, nicknamed “flakka” — an illegal synthetic drug that has made headlines across southern Florida — has burrowed deep into Lewis County, about 90 miles northeast of Lexington, in the past six months. And some experts say it’s likely to spread.

It has sheriff’s deputies on high alert because it’s unlike any drug they’ve ever seen. Users are trading heroin to get it — a substance that looks like rock salt, reeks of ammonia and sells for $100 to $500 a gram.

On the street, users call it “gravel,” sometimes “magic,” because the high lasts so long. But it also makes them paranoid, violent and can give users adrenaline-fueled strength, a troublesome combination for law enforcement.

“It’s kickin’ our ass,” Lewis County Sheriff Johnny Bivens said.

And for users like Ashley, it’s taking everything.

ALPHA-PVP IN APPALACHIA

On a recent June morning, Bivens sat in his uniform behind a desk in the historic county courthouse in Vanceburg. He and four deputies patrol 484 square miles of the county.

When he started as a deputy in the mid-1990s, arrests consisted mostly of pulling over town drunks and finding an occasional bag of dope. He saw things change in the mid-2000s when parking lots were full of people lined up at pill mills. He’s also seen a blip in heroin.

But just before Christmas last year, 911 dispatch started receiving calls about people exhibiting bizarre behavior. There were reports of people naked, some with abscesses, profusely sweating and fidgeting. A man lay in the middle of the road, petting a dog. Another stood in boxers armed with a butcher knife and a hammer. He drove 16 penny nails through a window to keep an imaginary man from getting inside.

“When the deputy was there investigating the man said, ‘There he goes running across my roof!’ ” Bivens recalled. “And I mean there was no one there.”

Suspects have kicked windows out of cruisers, led deputies on foot pursuits through the woods and spit in their faces. Sometimes they call and whisper: “Somebody’s trying to kill me.”

Recently, the sheriff’s office has also teamed up with the federal government — the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and Homeland Security — to track the drug going in and out of Lewis County.

But before he could do that, his office had to understand what flakka is and where it’s coming from.

In 2014, the DEA placed the drug on the U.S. list of illegal controlled substances. Unlike other drugs, it doesn’t flow into the United States through drug cartels. Anyone can order it off the Internet from China or India and have it shipped by UPS.

Special Agent Joseph Moses of the DEA said overseas manufacturers are getting around customs and border patrol agents by labeling the drug as research chemicals, plant fertilizer, insect repellants, industrial solvents and even shampoo.

“It’s the new frontier,” Moses said. “You can get it with a well-trained chemist and the click of a button.”

During two recent busts in Lewis County, deputies found pounds of flakka, including one stash worth more than $200,000. Bivens thought the arrest of the alleged flakka kingpin in April would cut the head off the snake, so to speak.

But once he went to jail, others simply picked up where he left off.

Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said synthetic drugs were only 2% of all submissions to the Kentucky State Police laboratory in 2014, and there hasn’t been an uptick in 2015.

“You take one guy that’s popular in the drug culture in that community, and he gets on the Internet and orders something … and all of a sudden you can start a wave in that communitK2y, especially these smaller, close-knit communities,” Ingram said. “And I think that’s what’s happened in Lewis County.”

Bivens isn’t the only lawman who’s seen a rise in synthetic drugs, though. Madisonville Police Chief Wade Williams has seen flakka. But he sees more synthetic cannabinoids, also known as “synthetic marijuana.”

TRACKING FLAKKA

Jim Hall, a drug epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparity at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, has been tracking drug use for decades. The name flakka, he said, is a colloquial Spanish term referring to an elegant, slender, beautiful woman who charms all she meets. But it does anything but charm, he explained.

The euphoria it causes lasts longer than crack cocaine, and it has a more intense stimulant effect than methamphetamine. But it also causes a racing heart rate, aggression and scary delusions, he said.

“Users report that it blocks even the ability to think and many state that they are literally afraid of the drug,” Hall said. “Yet its powerful addictive qualities cause them to use it again.”

But even more dangerous is a syndrome flakka triggers called excited delirium, which causes the body’s temperature to reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Users say their bodies feel like they’re on fire.
“They will frequently tear off their clothes and run wild, believing they are being chased by people or even imaginary wild animals seeking to kill them,” Hall said. “This is the fight or flight reaction that also creates superhuman-like adrenaline-fueled strength oftentimes taking up to seven law enforcement officers to restrain them. And once restrained, they require immediate medical attention or they can die.

“Literally it’s a meltdown of the brain.”

Hall said last year there were more than 2,700 seizures of flakka across the country. He has heard of cases in Ohio, Illinois and Texas.

“I’m afraid that this is really only the beginning,” he said.

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