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Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Flakka is a designer drug that emerged in the early 2010s. It can induce intense euphoria, heightened alertness, and increased energy levels. However, its effects can be unpredictable and often lead to dangerous consequences.

The drug gained notoriety for its highly addictive nature and the potential to cause severe physical and psychological harm. Users commonly administer it by smoking, snorting, or injecting, which can rapidly lead to addiction and compulsive drug-seeking behaviours. The drug’s affordability and accessibility have contributed to its prevalence among specific demographics.

Flakka has been associated with various adverse effects ranging from hallucinations to life-threatening complications that may cause death. The emergency department has reported cases of users exhibiting extreme agitation and displaying superhuman strength, putting themselves and others at risk.

Understanding what is Flakka and how it work can help people understand its dangerous and potentially fatal effects. It can also help control drug use amongst populations and decrease Flakka-related consequences and fatalities.

Flakka, scientifically known as alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (α-PVP), is a synthetic stimulant that falls under the class of cathinones, a group of drugs chemically related to amphetamines. It gained notoriety as a dangerous designer drug due to its potent effects on the brain and behaviour. Flakka usually appears as a white or pink crystal-like substance and can be ingested through various methods such as smoking, snorting, or injecting.

Upon entering the body, Flakka interacts with the brain’s neurotransmitter system, primarily targeting dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin reuptake. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, while norepinephrine is involved in the body’s “fight or flight” response and arousal. Flakka floods the brain with these neurotransmitters by hindering the reuptake process, leading to an intense surge of euphoria, increased energy, and heightened alertness.

However, Flakka’s impact on the brain extends beyond temporary feelings of pleasure. Prolonged use can significantly alter the brain’s chemistry and structure. The drug’s high potency can cause the brain to become overwhelmed, causing severe agitation, paranoia, and hallucinations. Users may experience an altered sense of reality and suffer from delusional thinking, contributing to erratic and violent behaviour.

Flakka is associated with various dangerous side effects that can devastate individuals’ physical and mental health. The following are the common side effects of Flakka abuse:

Psychiatric Effects

Flakka can cause severe psychiatric disturbances, including intense agitation, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. Users may experience delusional thinking, become highly paranoid and exhibit violent behaviour towards themselves and others. These psychological effects can lead to self-harm or threaten those around the individual.

Cardiovascular Complications

Flakka use significantly elevates heart rate and blood pressure, putting immense strain on the cardiovascular system. It can cause heart palpitations, irregular heart rhythms, and even heart attacks. The drug’s stimulating properties can also cause vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow to vital organs and increasing the risk of organ damage.


 Flakka can cause a dangerous rise in body temperature, leading to hyperthermia. Users may experience profuse sweating, dehydration, and an inability to regulate their body temperature, which can result in organ failure and life-threatening complications.

Muscle Breakdown

Flakka abuse can lead to rhabdomyolysis, where muscle tissue breaks down rapidly and releases toxic substances into the bloodstream. It can cause kidney damage or failure and may be life-threatening if not promptly treated.

Cognitive Impairment

Prolonged use of Flakka can lead to cognitive deficits, impacting memory, attention, and decision-making abilities. Users may struggle with cognitive tasks and experience difficulties in daily functioning.

Respiratory Problems

Smoking Flakka can cause respiratory issues, including breathing difficulties and lung damage, which may be particularly problematic when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

Neglect of Basic Needs

Flakka’s powerful effects can lead to a loss of appetite and neglect of basic needs, such as proper nutrition and hydration, potentially resulting in malnourishment and weakened immunity.

The drug’s addictive, unpredictable reactions make it an extremely hazardous substance. Prevention, education, and access to treatment resources are crucial in addressing the dangers of Flakka and protecting people from its harmful effects.

Flakka is highly addictive, and people who abuse this drug are at significant risk of developing a substance use disorder. Flakka’s addictive properties can cause compulsive drug-seeking behaviours, making it challenging for users to quit despite experiencing negative consequences. The following are essential aspects of Flakka addiction, the risk of overdose, and withdrawal symptoms:

Flakka Addiction

Flakka’s chemical composition and interaction with the brain’s neurotransmitter system contribute to its addictive nature. The drug causes a rapid and intense release of dopamine, which creates a powerful sense of euphoria and pleasure. The euphoric high reinforces the desire to continue using the drug, leading to frequent and escalating use.

Tolerance is another critical factor in Flakka addiction. With continued use, the body adapts to the drug’s presence, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. It can lead to a dangerous cycle of increasing drug consumption, putting individuals at higher risk for physical and psychological harm.

Risk of Overdose

The potency and unpredictability of the drug increase the risk of Flakka overdose. Due to its intense stimulant effects, an overdose can lead to severe and life-threatening symptoms. Some signs of a Flakka overdose include seizures, rapid and irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, hyperthermia (dangerously elevated body temperature), agitation, and aggressive behaviour.

In overdose situations, users may experience a state of extreme agitation known as “excited delirium,” which causes self-injury or cause harm to others. The overdose can progress rapidly, and immediate medical attention is needed to prevent potentially fatal outcomes.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When individuals dependent on the drug attempt to quit or significantly reduce their use, they will likely experience withdrawal. Flakka withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable and challenging to manage without professional help. Some common Flakka withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression: Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emotional numbness can occur during withdrawal.
  • Fatigue: Individuals may experience extreme tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Anxiety: Flakka withdrawal can lead to heightened anxiety and restlessness.
  • Cravings: Intense cravings for the drug can persist during withdrawal, making it difficult to resist using it again.
  • Agitation and Irritability: Users may feel easily agitated and irritable, contributing to the risk of relapse.
  • Insomnia: Sleep disturbances and difficulty falling or staying asleep are common during Flakka withdrawal.
  • Increased Appetite: As the drug’s stimulant effects wear off, individuals may experience increased hunger and weight gain.

Due to the severity of these withdrawal symptoms, individuals wanting to quit Flakka should seek professional medical and psychological support. Professional help can provide the necessary guidance, support, and medical supervision to help individuals safely navigate the withdrawal and work towards lasting recovery.

Managing Flakka addiction is challenging, but overcoming this dangerous substance use disorder is possible. The following are some crucial tips to help individuals manage the addiction and work towards lasting recovery:

Seek Professional Help

Contact healthcare professionals, addiction specialists, or treatment centres with experience dealing with stimulant addiction, including Flakka. They can provide personalized treatment plans, counselling, and medical support to address addiction’s physical and psychological aspects.


Flakka withdrawal can be difficult and uncomfortable, and attempting to quit abruptly can be dangerous. Medical detoxification in a supervised setting can help manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety during the initial stages of recovery.

Engage in Therapy

Behavioural therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can effectively treat Flakka addiction. Therapy helps individuals identify triggers and develop coping strategies to manage cravings and avoid relapse.

Support Groups

Participating in support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or other addiction support groups, can provide a sense of community and understanding. Connecting with others who have experienced similar struggles can offer valuable encouragement and motivation.

Identify and Address Underlying Issues

Flakka addiction often co-occurs with underlying emotional, mental, or social issues. Working with a therapist can help individuals explore and address these root causes, facilitating long-term recovery.

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Finding healthier ways to cope with stress and emotions is essential in managing addiction. Engaging in regular exercise, mindfulness practices, hobbies, or creative pursuits can replace the role that Flakka once played in an individual’s life.

Avoid Triggers and Temptations

 Identify triggers that may lead to drug use and avoid environments or social circles that encourage substance abuse. Surrounding oneself with supportive, drug-free individuals can foster a positive recovery environment.

Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

Collaborate with treatment professionals to develop a relapse prevention plan tailored to individual needs. This plan can include strategies to handle potential triggers and steps to take if a relapse occurs.

Focus on Health and Well-being

Prioritize physical and mental health during recovery. Adopt a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and engage in activities that promote emotional well-being. Healthy lifestyle choices can positively impact the recovery process.

Celebrate Progress

Acknowledge and celebrate every step forward, no matter how small. Recovery is a journey; each achievement is a testament to strength and determination.

Remember that overcoming Flakka side effects and addiction is a process that requires commitment, patience, and support. Professional assistance is invaluable in navigating the challenge towards a drug-free life. With the right resources and mindset, individuals can break free from Flakka towards a brighter future.



The Balance RehabClinic is a leading provider of luxury addiction and mental health treatment for affluent individuals and their families, offering a blend of innovative science and holistic methods with unparalleled individualised care.


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