Flakka is just the latest in a long line of stimulant drugs that can, in some very rare cases, result in astonishing public behavior.
Such as running nude through the streets to escape "unknown people trying to kill him".
Such as trying to kick in the door of a police station to get IN so as to escape cars that were supposedly chasing him.
These stories are like crack to the mainstream media. They have been telling these stories for years, encompassing public scares over PCP, crack cocaine and methamphetamine over the decades past. More recently we've seen these types of stories about synthetic cathinones, in particular under the generic term "bath salts".
Sprinkled amongst the stories about classical psychomotor stimulant effects, we have stories of overdose involving synthetic opioids, MDMA and/or Molly and stories of adverse psychotropic effects of synthetic cannabinoid products. I've addressed some of these issues in prior posts and for today I want to discuss the stimulants of more traditional effect.
My greatest frustration with the reporting is not actually the breathless sensationalism, although that runs a close second. The biggest problem is the lack of verification of the bizarre behavior (or overdose) being associated with ingestion of the drug that is alleged in the initial reporting. I have not see one single verification of alpha-PVP in the body tissues of these recent Florida cases where the subjects reported consuming Flakka. We still do not know exactly what drugs were consumed by the 11 Wesleyan University students who became ill enough to hospitalize. We don't know what caused the death of Kimchi Truong at last year's Coachella music festival.
Oftentimes there are multiple media reports which, to their credit, mention that toxicology testing will take some weeks to verify. And yet. Rarely is there ever a follow-up accounting. And when there is a followup, well, it gets very poor penetration and people often parrot the wrong information even years later.
The Florida Causeway Cannibal is a case in point. At the time of the initial event it was almost universally reported to be due to "bath salts", i.e. MDPV. Toxicology reporting found no sign of any synthetic cathinone in Mr. Eugene.
It is long past time for us to hold the media as accountable for accuracy and followup on drug-related stories as we do for, say, sports reporting.
Now, there are a couple of bright lights in this generally dismal area of news reporting. Here's a local story that reported MDA, not MDMA, was at blame for a death (although they still screw up, MDA is not a "parent" drug of MDMA). In 2013 there was followup in three music festival deaths in New York to confirm MDMA, methylone and the combination of the two caused the three fatalities. We need this kind of attention paid to all of these cases.
Getting back to the current media storm over "Flakka", which is alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP), I have a few links for you if you are interested in additional reading on this drug.
@forensictoxguy posted a list of scientific papers on alpha-PVP at The Dose Makes the Poison blog. It is not a very long list at present! (Marusich et al, 2014 is probably the place to start your reading.)
The Dose Makes the Poison discussed alpha-PVP back in early 2014....this is not a new 2015 drug by any means.
Michael Taffe from The Scripps Research Institute [PubMed; Lab Site] gives a preview of a paper in press showing alpha-PVP and MDPV are pretty similar to each other in rat self-administration.
There was also a post on the Taffe blog suggesting that alpha-PVP samples submitted to ecstasydata.org were more consistently pure than MDPV and some other street drugs.
Jacob Sullum has written a pretty good Opinion piece at Forbes Fear Of Flakka: Anti-Drug Hysteria Validates Itself.
Review of the above information will help you to assess claims in the media that Flakka is "[insert more addictive, more dangerous, more powerful, worse] than [insert bath salts, MDPV, methamphetamine, cocaine]".
tldr; It isn't.
It will also assist you in coming to an understanding that Flakka is likely to be just as addictive and problematic as these previously sensationalized stimulants.
tldr; It is.
In my view, the scope of the Flakka problem over the coming years will be dictated by user popularity and availability, and not by anything particularly unique about the molecular structure of alpha-PVP.