Addiction Warnings

Drug-Induced Zombie Walk

Drug-Induced zombie walk is the characteristic movement of individuals high on Flakka, a synthetic or designer drug typically made from a synthetic version of an amphetamine-like stimulant in the cathinone class called alpha-PVP. Synthetic cathinones are man-made stimulants that are chemically related to the substance cathinone, which is found in the khat plant.

People who use flakka will at first feel euphoric, highly sociable, stimulated, more focused and have an increased sex drive, but the anticipated high will wear off quickly, leaving users to up their flakka intake. And the more someone abuses the designer drug, she added, the more they will begin to feel the negative side effects. Flakka users will experience what the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls “excited delirium“: a debated condition involving hallucinations, paranoia, increased strength and hyperstimulation. Your heart will race. You will have panic attacks. Your sex drive will plummet. You may become depressed and suicidal. You could become extremely psychotic and violent.

As the drug wears off, you’re going to feel all the withdrawal you want to not feel. Unfortunately it’s their tolerance that pushes them to the other side. Vaping with flakka will make you feel these effects far quicker than any other method because the drug goes straight in your blood stream. That could easily lead to an overdose, the federal health institute states.

Drug-Induced Zombie Walk
Typical Drug-Induced Zombie Walk

The Dangers of a Flakka Addiction

Flakka is known to spike body temperature up to 104 degrees, if not higher. An extremely high body temperature can have dire consequences – it can lead to kidney damage or kidney failure, and even death. The synthetic drug can also elevate your blood pressure, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, or heart failure.

In 2011, synthetic cathinones were involved in over 20,000 emergency department visits. The public fear of bath salts started in 2012, when a Miami man stripped naked and ate the face of another man in broad daylight. When police ordered him stop eating the man’s face, he growled like an animal and the officer was forced to shoot the attacker, taking 4 bullets to finally stop him. This is when people started referring to Flakka and bath salts as the “zombie drug” because of the way it affected its users, causing them to lose touch with reality and try to eat other people. This trend started in Florida but is slowly spreading throughout the rest of the country.

There have been reports of Flakka appearing in Ohio neighborhoods, but being mixed with opioids. In May 2019, Ohio Emergency Medical Services said that the mixture led to the overdose death of three people in Ohio. Although there is not a lot of research on combining opioids and Flakka yet, it is always dangerous to mix drugs. In October 2019, the Utah police reported that Flakka had made its way to their state. Police seized a package being delivered from the Netherlands to someone’s home in Magna, Utah that contained Flakka, along with other drugs, prescription medications, and paraphernalia.

A survey from February 2019 found that 1% of American teenagers have knowingly tried Flakka, and researchers believe more teens have taken the drug without knowing it was Flakka. Flakka is often added to the party drug Ecstasy, so users may be unaware of what the drug actually contains. Some regions have higher rates of teenage Flakka use, such as the Miami area, and some populations have higher rates of using Flakka, such as Latino populations.

Flakka Addiction

With all of the negative consequences of using Flakka, it is hard to imagine why someone would put themselves at risk by choosing this drug. Affordability is one of the main factors. A gram of cocaine can cost up to $80 and many people, especially college students, homeless, and low-income populations, cannot afford an expensive drug habit. On average, a hit of Flakka costs $3 to $5. The drug is cheap, obtainable, and the high is longer and more intense. The high from snorting Cocaine lasts up to 30 minutes, and the high from smoking it lasts up to 10 minutes. The high from Flakka can last up to 5 hours.

Flakka causes unpredictable effects because its components can be a variety of harmful ingredients. Flakka is reported to be at least ten times stronger than cocaine. Some combinations of Flakka produce dissociative symptoms seen in ketamine or other sedatives, such as heavy benzodiazepine use.

Flakka acts as a stimulant when taken in small doses and can make users feel euphoric and more alert. It can also produce hallucinatory effects in some users. High doses of flakka can mimic the effects of cocaine and meth, which can cause twitching, delusions and even seizures.

Synthetic cathinones are addictive, and can cause withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, paranoia, depression, and sleeping issues.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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