Flakka: Addiction, Effects, & Risks

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Sensational accounts in the media have left many wondering, “What is flakka drug?” Flakka is a designer drug with a high potential for addiction and other adverse outcomes. The flakka drug is derived from a synthetic version of the cathinone alpha-PVP. It acts as a stimulant with amphetamine-like properties. Cathinones, occurring naturally in the khat plant in the Middle East and Somalia, are known for inducing a euphoric effect when chewed.

People on flakka may exhibit erratic and uncontrollable behavior. Despite being a relatively new synthetic substance, research from NIH (National Institutes of Health) indicates that flakka is as potent as methamphetamine and poses an even greater risk of addiction among those who misuse flakka drugs.

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Read on to learn more about these key issues:

  • What is the drug flakka?
  • What is flakka made of?
  • What does flakka do?
  • How to connect with substance abuse treatment in Southern California.

What is Flakka?

Flakka, a synthetic drug, is typically created from a manufactured variant of an amphetamine-like stimulant classified as alpha-PVP from the cathinone class. Synthetic cathinones are stimulants like the cathinone found in the khat plant and chewed for mild stimulant effects.

Synthetic cathinones like flakka are categorized as NPSs (new psychoactive substances). Emerging around the mid-2000s, these substances are designed to mimic the effects of illicit drugs like cocaine, molly, and ketamine.

Flakka shares similarities with the street drug named bath salts. The drug is consumed by snorting, injecting, eating, smoking, or vaporizing the substance. The designer drug is nicknamed gravel for its appearance – typically white or pink crystals. Those who develop an addiction to flakka face substantial risks of harm, including injury and death.

Effects of Flakka

Flakka effects are both physical and psychological, stemming from its stimulant properties and impact on neurotransmitters. These effects can be immediate and short-term, as well as potentially culminate in long-term consequences. Some of the effects of flakka use include:

Short-term effects

  • Euphoria: People using flakka often experience intense feelings of euphoria and heightened mood.
  • Stimulant effects: Flakka leads to increased alertness, energy, and heightened senses.
  • Rapid heart rate and blood pressure: The drug can cause a significant rise in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Aggressive behavior: Some people may exhibit aggressive or erratic behavior after using flakka.
  • Confusion: Cognitive function can become impaired, leading to confusion and disorientation.
  • Hyperactivity: Restlessness and hyperactivity are common, often resulting in pacing or repetitive movements.
  • Impaired judgment: Flakka use can cloud judgment and decision-making.
  • Psychotic symptom: In some cases, individuals might experience hallucinations, paranoia, and other symptoms of psychosis.

Comedown effects

  • Fatigue: After the drug’s effects wear off, people can experience extreme fatigue and lethargy.
  • Depression: Feelings of sadness and depression can follow the initial flakka high.

Long-term effects 

  • Kidney damage: Flakka has been associated with kidney toxicity and potential renal failure.
  • Cognitive impairment: Prolonged use may lead to cognitive difficulties, memory problems, and reduced mental clarity.
  • Cardiovascular issues: Chronic use of flakka can contribute to heart problems, including increased risk of heart attack.
  • Addiction and dependence: Long-term use of flakka can lead to tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Increasing consumption accelerates the development of physical dependence, associated with flakka withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.

The unpredictable nature of flakka and its potential for adverse effects on both physical and mental health underlines the importance of avoiding its use. Seek professional help and support if you are struggling with substance use or addiction related to flakka or other synthetic drugs.

an image of someone who get help for flakka addiction

Dangers of Flakka Addiction

Flakka addiction carries a host of serious risks and potential consequences, both in the short term and over extended periods. Some of the dangers associated with flakka addiction include: 

Physical health risks 

  • Organ damage: Flakka abuse can lead to severe damage to organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver, potentially causing long-lasting health issues.
  • Cardiovascular complications: The stimulant properties of flakka can strain the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart attacks, arrhythmias, and other heart-related problems.
  • Kidney failure: Flakka’s impact on kidney function can lead to kidney damage and potentially result in renal failure.
  • Hyperthermia: The drug’s effects on body temperature regulation can lead to hyperthermia – dangerously high body temperature – which can cause muscle breakdown and organ failure.

Mental health risks 

  • Psychosis: Chronic flakka use can induce severe hallucinations, paranoia, and other symptoms of psychosis, causing individuals to lose touch with reality.
  • Anxiety and depression: Flakka addiction can exacerbate or trigger anxiety and depression, leading to worsening mental health.
  • Cognitive impairment: Prolonged use can impair cognitive function, memory, and concentration, interfering with daily life and responsibilities.

Social and behavioral risks 

  • Aggressive behavior: Flakka’s influence on behavior can lead to aggression, hostility, and dangerous confrontations.
  • Social isolation: Addiction often causes people to withdraw from social interactions, damaging relationships and support systems.

Legal consequences

  • Criminal charges: Possession and distribution of flakka is illegal in many jurisdictions, leading to potential legal repercussions.

Risk of Overdose

  • Lethal dose: The potent nature of flakka means that even a small miscalculation in dosage can result in overdose, which can be fatal.

Addiction cycle 

  • Compulsive use: Flakka addiction can drive individuals to engage in compulsive drug-seeking behavior, impacting their ability to focus on other aspects of life.
  • Escalating tolerance: Continued use of flakka often leads to tolerance, necessitating higher doses to achieve the desired effects and increasing the risk of overdose.

Treatment for Flakka Addiction

Overcoming flakka addiction requires a comprehensive and personalized approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of dependence. Effective treatment strategies can help individuals regain control over their lives and work towards recovery. 

In cases of severe addiction, medical detoxification under medical supervision may be necessary to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure physical stability. 

Evidence-based therapies, such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and CM (contingency management), can help individuals modify their thought patterns, develop coping strategies, and build resilience against triggers.

Individual and group counseling sessions provide a supportive environment to address underlying emotional issues, learn effective communication skills, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

If someone has co-occurring mental health disorders, integrated treatment for both the addiction and the mental health issue is crucial for comprehensive recovery. 

Participating in support groups or 12-step programs can offer a sense of community, encouragement, and a platform to share experiences and insights. Learning strategies to identify triggers, manage cravings, and prevent relapse is beneficial for maintaining long-term sobriety. 

Incorporating holistic practices such as mindfulness, yoga, art therapy, and meditation can complement traditional treatment methods and promote overall well-being. 

Transitioning from formal treatment to daily life requires a well-structured aftercare plan, which may involve ongoing therapy, support groups, and monitoring. 

Involving family members in therapy and education can help repair relationships and create a supportive environment for recovery. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with flakka addiction, reaching out for professional help is the first step towards recovery. We can help you achieve a sustained recovery at California Detox.

an image of a woman who got help for Flakka addiction

Get Treatment for Flakka Addiction at California Detox

Flakka addiction can be disruptive and debilitating. Like all addictions, though, it responds positively to evidence-based treatment. We can help you with this at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA.

Set the most reliable foundation for ongoing recovery by choosing our supervised medical detoxification program. Take advantage of medications and around-the-clock care to address the issue of dependence on flakka. After a week or so, you will be ready to move into ongoing treatment. 

Our 30-day inpatient program offers the most supportive and structured pathway to healing. All treatment plans are highly personalized and draw from interventions such as:

Call California Detox admissions at 949.694.8305 when you are ready to reclaim your life from flakka addiction.


Flakka affects the brain by increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. It also inhibits the reuptake of dopamine, leading to intense euphoria, heightened alertness, and erratic behavior. Prolonged use can result in cognitive impairment, psychosis, and other mental health issues.
The term flakka zombie is used to describe individuals who display extreme and often bizarre behavior due to flakka use. This behavior can include agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, and loss of awareness of their surroundings. For this reason, the NPS is sometimes referred to as the flakka zombie drug.


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