It’s the drug on everyone’s lips after a series of mysterious overdoses – but experts say very little is known about “Flakka”, the substance rumoured to be causing the alarming incidents.
Sixteen people overdosed on the Gold Coast at the weekend after using a drug many reports speculated was Flakka.
There are now serious concerns that the annual end-of-school celebrations and revelry could be marred by exposure to the dangerous drug.
Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) reported victims were hallucinating and acting aggressively, with two people placed in induced comas and eight overdosing. Only one remained in hospital on Monday.
Despite blame being put on Flakka by the media, the National Drug Research Institute’s Dr Stephen Bright told The New Daily on Monday that “Flakka isn’t actually a drug”.
The term refers to a range of drugs that emerged in the United States following illicit products being sold as “bath salts”, Dr Bright explained.
“It is a term referring to a range of potential drugs, the most notorious one of them being alpha-PVP,” he said.
Flakka is designed to be a stimulant and is manufactured synthetically, Dr Bright said.
He went on to suggest that the drug generally described as Flakka or alpha-PVP doesn’t appear to match up with the reported symptoms of the Gold Coast victims.
“The drug was unlikely to be an alpha-PVP [mistakenly labelled Flakka] as this drug does not cause hallucination unless used for a prolonged period without sleep,” Dr Bright said.
“The reported cases involved hallucinations after acute use.”
Harm Reduction Victoria’s Steph Tzanetis described to The New Daily the effects that alpha-PVP drugs (which fall under the label of Flakka) can have on people.
“They are linked to overdoses (over-heating and cardiac failure) and prolonged binge, habitual or dependent use patterns have been linked to triggering or exacerbating mental health conditions like psychosis,” Ms Tzanetis said.
“Prolonged use, along with likely sleep deprivation, may attract other health disturbances, including psychological risks like experiencing hallucinations and inducing a mental health condition.”
She said that reports claiming Flakka was a “zombie drug” were also overstated.
“Flakka is not some kind of zombie Apocalypse-inducing drug as some reports seem to incite,” she said.
Not prevalent in Australia
Dr Bright, Ms Tzanetis and the Australian Drug Foundation stressed that police had not confirmed what substances had been taken on the Gold Coast, nor did they believe the synthetic drugs known as Flakka were widely available or a big problem in Australia.
“They are not particularly prevalent in Australia, the availability of amphetamines is so big there is little demand for alpha-PVP,” Dr Bright said.
ADF national policy manager Geoff Munro said Flakka was “a relatively unknown drug in Australia” and warned that buying any synthetic drug off the street was potentially diabolical.
“It’s Russian roulette when people take these types of substances,” he said. “They just don’t know how strong it is and how their body will respond to it, or really what it even is.
“It is difficult to prove what you’re buying from someone, it could be cut with anything.”