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What You Need To Know About Flakka, The Drug Turning People Into ‘Zombies'

Chances are you've probably heard or seen the word “flakka” today.

It's hard to avoid, because the “zombie” drug played a vital role in one of the most gruesome murders to make headlines this year.

On Monday, a 19-year-old Florida State University student was arrested in connection with a double homicide in which one of the victims had flesh eaten off his face.

It took four police officers, a taser and a dog to pull Austin Kelly Harrouff off the victim's face in a “completely unprovoked and random attack” in Jupiter, said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

In a news conference, the sheriff said Harrouff displayed “abnormal levels of strength.”

Officers believe the drug flakka sparked the act of violence and made Harrouff grunt like an animal after his arrest.

Florida State University frat student Austin Harrouff "was on flakka" when he ate a man's face in the double homicide of John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon.


But what exactly is flakka?

Some of the first reported cases emerged more than a year ago in Florida.

It's a man-made drug created primarily from a chemical called alpha-PVP.

This is a synthetic version of cathinone, the stimulant made from the plants Somalians eat in the movie “Captain Phillips.”

The sensation and long-term effects it causes are said to be comparable to high-grade crystal meth or cocaine, with the addition of kidney failure.

The crystal pebbles that make up flakka can be snorted, injected, smoked or ingested.

Alpha-PVP, a powerful stimulant nicknamed Flakka is shown after being seized by Broward County police in this image released on May 28, 2015. Unlike cocaine, flakka, is both cheap and accessible. The drug is widely advertised for sale online by Chinese companies and can be shipped in large quantities to U.S. addresses by established global delivery companies. Once it hits the streets, a single dose can sell for as little as $5. Flakka, which was placed on the U.S. list of illegal controlled substances in 2014, is chemically designed to mimic cathinone, a natural stimulant found in the leaves of the khat plant, chewed traditionally in the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. To match Feature USA-FLORIDA/FLAKKA


Is it more dangerous than other hard drugs?

Well, we can't speak for what unpredictable ingredients dealers are cutting their drugs with to maximize profit.

But we can tell you flakka's high is one massive stream of dopamine — the feel-good chemical in your brain.

When this is released, either naturally or with the aid of other drugs, the stream eventually levels off.

But flakka stops the chemical from leveling off. This can lead to a sharp rise in body temperature and has been known to make users rip off their clothes.

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Oliver McAteer


Brit abroad. Previously worked on Metro.co.uk and Snapchat with the Daily Mail.
Brit abroad. Previously worked on Metro.co.uk and Snapchat with the Daily Mail.

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