Flakka Is More Addictive Than Meth, Study Suggests

Flakka, also known as alpha-PDP. DEA

There are drugs that you can understand the appeal of, and then there's flakka.

This stimulant has been blamed for a spate of recent bizarre incidents, all occurring in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In February, a man who was allegedly high on the substance tried to break into a police station by kicking down the door. The next month, a flakka-fueled man fleeing authorities impaled himself on a fence. In April, another intoxicated fellow ran naked through the streets before being arrested. Use of the drug appears to be expanding in Florida and elsewhere. God only knows what will happen this month.

Not much is known about flakka, technically called alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PDP). Nobody knows where the name flakka comes from, although there are theories that it derives from the Spanish word flaca, meaning skinny, after the stimulant's appetite-suppressing effects. Some have also suggested it gets its name from the Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame, although there's no evidence for that. Reports have indicated that it may be even more addictive and powerful than bath salts, a group of stimulants known for inducing strange and violent behavior.

A new study published this month in Psychopharmacology sheds light on this murky drug, suggesting it is equally as addictive as the primary chemical found in bath salts, known as MDPV. "Our data show that flakka is as potent as MDPV, making it a very good stimulant, arguably with worse addiction liability than methamphetamine," said study co-author Tobin Dickerson, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute, in a statement.

In the study the scientists set up a lab experiment in which rats could initiate a self-injection with either substance by pushing on a lever. The rats started hitting the lever more and more frequently once they found out it was connected with a shot of the drug. By quantifying the amount of times the rats would hit the lever before getting a shot, the scientists found that the two drugs elicited a similar level of desire in the rats, suggesting the chemicals are similarly—and seriously—addictive.