YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A designer drug that has been linked to a number of bizarre incidents is making headlines again, but agencies in the Mahoning Valley have been seizing synthetic drugs like it for about five years.
Medical professionals describe Flakka as “cheap and highly addictive.” It can cause temporary insanity and violent outbursts, according to doctors.
Police in Florida say a 19-year-old college student may have been on the hallucinogen, often referred to as bath salts, when he allegedly stabbed a couple and ate one of the victim’s faces.
“What happens is you get all of your adrenaline released and all of your serotonin released at the same time,” said Dr. Laura Markley, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “You not only become very agitated, but you hallucinate and you become disengaged with reality.”
She says Flakka causes delusions, making users believe they have superhuman powers.
“Your heart starts beating faster, your temperature starts to rise. You can get a temperature of over 105 degrees.”
These synthetic drugs can also lead to a dangerous surge in body chemicals with potentially catastrophic results. Markley says just one dose can be deadly.
“It has caused several deaths in Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and now it does seem to be making its way into southern Ohio.”
Experts say the product has become more dangerous recently, as dealers have begun altering the chemical makeup of the drugs in an attempt to stay ahead of law enforcement. Drug tests cannot detect the new chemical makeup.
Flakka hasn’t made quite an impact in the Mahoning Valley, even though agencies have seen other synthetics like K2 and the synthetic marijuana.
“It’s really something that hasn’t been on our radar, and that’s primarily because heroin is so over the top in our area right now. We’re just not seeing as much of these pieces of synthetics coming in,” said Angela McClellan, director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning Valley.
Markley says that just because the drug isn’t in the area does not mean people shouldn’t worry about it.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, you can and do have access to them.”
A federal crackdown on synthetic drugs a couple of years ago seemed to help law enforcement get a handle on the trend. That’s why several local police departments say the biggest trend they’re seeing now continues to be the heroin epidemic.