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Florida Law Enforcement Agencies Prepare As Delirium-Inducing Drug Spreads North

Alpha-PVP, also known as Flakka, can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized.
Alpha-PVP, also known as Flakka, can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized.

With South Florida emergency rooms overflowing and body counts rising, the only way to halt an epidemic of abuse of the designer drug Flakka is education and community outreach.

That’s the message law enforcement officers from South Florida brought Wednesday to the Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana, a small town northwest of Tallahassee.

This story was originally published by WFSU News.

Five hundred police officers, sheriff’s deputies and EMTs, wearing the uniforms of more than 100 agencies, shifted in their seats as Broward County  detective William Schwartz kicked off the daylong Flakka seminar.

“The internal organs are actually melting as a result of this,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office executive director David Scharf. “The body is not able to flush these toxins out sufficiently, and what’s happening is kidneys are failing and organs are failing and people are dying as a result of that.”

Alpha-PVP, popularly known as Flakka, is a white crystal that is part of the synthetic cathinone class of drugs, often called “bath salts.” It sent 40 Broward County victims to the morgue in the past eight months, and others running paranoid and naked down the streets.

At certain doses, Flakka creates a crystal meth-like high and can be more addicting than cocaine, experts say. But the line between euphoria and so-called “excited delirium” is razor thin.

Excited delirium – a state in which users experience hyperstimulation, paranoia, and hallucinations --  has caused victims to throw rocks through police department windows and impale themselves on fences. Adrenaline dumps give them unusual strength. Flakka can also dangerously raise body temperature and has also been linked to deaths by heart attack, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Scharf says it’s important for law enforcement officers to know the signs of a Flakka high so they don’t shoot someone by mistake.

Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young says he invited his Broward County counterparts to North Florida because he thinks the drug’s use is spreading.  Young says two deaths have been attributed to Flakka in Gadsden since June and emergency medical personnel are fielding five calls per day.

In South Georgia, Grady County Sheriff Harry Young says Flakka is just beginning to rear its head. He says it’s causing problems at the jail.

“It seems like it’s worse, really, as far as the attitude people have when they take this drug. It’s hard to control them,” says Young. “We have to put them aside, put them separate, because they’re more violent.”

The good news, according to Broward County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Ozzie Tianga is that the trend might be slowing. The four hospitals tracking Flakka-related admissions in Broward County report the number of daily admissions has fallen – from 11 to nine.