South Florida

Police, Doctors Warn Against New Synthetic Drug “Flakka”

Law enforcement officials and medical personnel are warning people about the risks of a dangerous new synthetic drug that is growing in popularity in the streets of South Florida.

Just last month, a man was caught on surveillance camera attempting to kick in the hurricane glass doors of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department headquarters.

It was later determined that that man, 50-year-old James West, was high off of Flakka, a synthetic street drug mix with a base of bath salts that can result in paranoia, anxiety, psychosis and hallucinations.

According to police, West was hallucinating and believed that 25 cars were chasing him down Broward Boulevard. West was kicking at the door with such great force, you can see the glass of the door shaking in the surveillance video.

"We are actually seeing a lot more patients coming in hallucinating," Dr. Nabil El Sanadi tells NBC 6 South Florida of Flakka. "Very fast heart rate, high body temperature, with almost super human strength."

Sanadi, an emergency physician at Broward Health, says the drug can be smoked, snorted or ingested for a quick and cheap high, but that high often results in a "bad reaction."

"The brain tells them that there's something going on when there may be nothing going on," Sanadi says.

Other potential side effects from Flakka include permanent effects on the heart or brain leading to a stroke or even a heart attack.

As for West, his "dangerous trip" left him bruised and bloody - and behind bars.

Emergency room doctors say they tend to see an increase in patients suffering the effects of Flakka on the weekends. Often, the victims are not even aware of what is actually in the drug.

According to the United Way of Broward County's Commission of Substance Abuse, Flakka - also known as "gravel" - is a bath salt synthetic stimulant that is purchased online, repackaged into packets or capsules, then sold by low level drug dealers.

It is often mixed with methamphetamine or other drugs.

Other side effects of Flakka include breakdown of muscle tissue and kidney failure, and a potential lifetime need for dialysis for its users.

At least 126 people died from the use of Flakka in Florida in 2013, according to the organization.

Khorri Atknson contributed to this story

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