As if parents have enough to worry about:

A hazardous new synthetic drug originating in China is being blamed for 18 recent deaths in a single South Florida county, as police grapple with an inexpensive narcotic that causes exaggerated strength and dangerous paranoid hallucinations.


Alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone, a.k.a. “alpha-PVP,” a.k.a. “flakka,” a.k.a. “gravel” has made its way onto the streets of South Florida and beyond. The synthetic drug is made in China and is considered a “second-generation bath salt.” Frances Robles says the Broward County Sheriff’s office has had 400 cases to deal with in the first four months of this year — up from 190 cases in all of 2014:

In Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale and is considered ground zero for the new drug, there have been 18 flakka-related fatalities since September, the chief medical examiner there said.

“I have never seen such a rash of cases, all associated with the same substance,” said James N. Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University who has studied the Florida drug market for decades. “It’s probably the worst I have seen since the peak of crack cocaine. Rather than a drug, it’s really a poison.”


And it’s cheap, too — around $3–$5 per dose. Robles explains how this “poison” works on people’s brains:

Broward County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Craig Mallak, said the drug manufacturers added a ketone, an oxygen atom that affects more receptors in the brain.

The drug works by blocking neuron transmitters, allowing a storm of dopamine and adrenaline to flood the brain, Dr. Mallak said.

The drug comes in the form of crystals of different colors that dissolve in the mouth. The body temperature of users who take too much can rise above 105 degrees, resulting in excited delirium. Users can feel so hot that they may strip off their clothes. Some have suffered kidney failure and cognitive impairment.

“They do really wild things,” Dr. Mallak said. “A lot of them get hyperthermia and die of heat stroke. A few attack police officers, end up getting shot. They tear their clothes off and go crazy.”

Many of the drug’s users remain high for three days on a $5 dose the size of one-tenth of a packet of sweetener.


So now The PediaBlog can add another synthetic chemical to its growing list of substances to be abused, alongside “Molly,” “Spice,” and mega-caffeinated beverages, as well as natural scourges such as alcohol, nicotine, and heroin.

Like I said: one more thing to worry about.