Cocaine has enjoyed a long reign in South Florida, and for decades law enforcement has battled cartels which ship it into the area from South America. But cocaine’s dominance is coming to an end in favor of a newer, cheaper drug which comes from East Asia. This drug, which is called Alpha-PVP, is better known on the street as flakka. The drug first appeared in 2014, and incidents involving it have increased rapidly.
What is Flakka?
Flakka is a synthetic drug which resembles cathinone, a stimulant which occurs naturally in the khat plant, which is chewed in East Africa and the Middle East. It is produced and sold by Chinese companies via the internet, and can be received by mail order. On the streets it goes for as little as $5, which makes it far cheaper and more available than cocaine.
Once consumed flakka has effects which are similar to ecstasy. It appears in the form of small crystals and can be smoked or swallowed directly. It is supplanting cocaine not only due to its low price tag, but the effects it has. Those who have tried it have said that it gives them the sensation of super strength, along with delirium. Although South Florida is not the first area where the drug has made its presence felt, it has made the greatest inroads there. This is partly due to South Florida’s long history of high drug usage.
A Dangerous New World
Flakka is the very first drug to supplant cocaine, and it also marks the first time that the Chinese have entered the drug business in a significant way. For decades South Florida’s close proximity to Latin America and the Caribbean have allowed groups such as the Colombians, Cubans, Bolivians and Mexicans to dominate the illegal drug business.
But flakka, which carries a price tag of $50,000 for a single kilo on the street, can be purchased online directly from Chinese firms for $1,500. The Chinese government is reluctant to get involved because flakka is not prohibited within China, and Chinese manufacturers simply promote the drug as a chemical for research, offering private mail delivery. Traditionally countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have worked with American officials to reduce illegal drug shipments, but the refusal of the Chinese government to interfere has made the problem a difficult one to solve.
How Flakka is Being Tackled
The Obama administration has brought up the issue of flakka with the Chinese government, and the Chinese have done some investigations into the drug. However, China’s massive geographic size means that it is incredibly difficult to monitor every port, and the drug’s status in China doesn’t give the government there an incentive to do so. In South Florida police departments are issuing detection kits as well as dogs trained to sniff it out at mail receiving facilities. Rehab centers in the area should also watch for those who become addicted to the substance, as it can take as long as four days for a first time user to come down from a high.