back to top

Everything You Need To Know About "Flakka," The Synthetic Drug That Isn't As New As You Think

"Flakka" or "gravel" has been showing up in Australia since 2012.

Posted on

In the midst of an "ice epidemic," there are now reports of a new type of synthetic drug in Australia.

Channel 7 News

Earlier this week, 7News reported a synthetic drug known as "flakka" had arrived on Australian shores.

"Flakka" otherwise known as "gravel" is an NPS (New Psychoactive Substance) and users can often end up hallucinating and acting dangerously.

The drug has been linked to several deaths in the United States, and in August MTV were even looking for some flakka addicts for a new episode of their reality show True Life.

It is described by many as a type of "bath salt", infamous for the 2012 incident which saw a user chew the face off of a homeless man.

Last year a woman who had taken the drug was taken to the emergency ward after compulsively licking the dance floor of a nightclub to the point that she shredded her tongue.

Anne Cusack / Getty Images

A chemical cousin of cathinone, Flakka derives from the compound alpha-PVP. It's designed to be a stimulant - enhancing emotions, physical feelings and awareness - however little is known about how the drug affects the brain.

According to an entry in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, these effects occur within 30 to 40 minutes after consumption and can be likened to the behavior caused by cocaine, PCP, LSD and methamphetamine.

It can be smoked, injected, swallowed, and snorted - purchased in a range of different mediums from crystals to pills.

Despite the claims of a rise in use in Australia, the NSW Police Drug Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke, told BuzzFeed News there were few sightings of the drug in NSW.

ABC News

"'Flakka' is a synthetic cathinone and is a schedule prohibited drug within NSW," he said. "It has been seen here sold as bath salts and was linked to the death of a man in 2012. Thankfully, we have seen little of this particular drug but we continue to look out for new and emerging substances."

The fear with NPS like flakka is that they are almost always dirt cheap (some report flakka being purchased for $15) and are often marketed as a "safe" or "legal alternative" to illegal drugs - but this isn't the case.

Paul J. Richards / AFP / Getty Images

Police fear that the availability of NPS has risen at a much faster rate than the education surrounding the substance.

Victoria Police Chief Commisioner, Graham Ashton, told The Age yesterday that they fear NPS represent a new wave of drug use.

"This will be the next big thing," he said. "We all know it's coming. It's a turbocharged version of ice."

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.