For some time now, there is a dangerous drug circulating the streets of the U.S. referred to as the ‘zombie drug’. This mysterious substance can make those who use it act violent, aimless, and ‘zombie-like’.

Read on to learn more about this synthetic drug and the dangers of its use. Keeping informed can protect yourself and your loved ones from experiencing its effects.

What is Flakka?

Flakka is a street name for the designer drug known as, a-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone that is known to cause paranoia and psychosis. It can be called alpha-PVP or a-PVP for short. Flakka is a synthetic drug of the cathinone variety, closely related to another synthetic cathinone known as ‘bath salts’.

What is It Made of?

Flakka is synthetically made. This means that its psychoactive ingredients come from a lab. Flakka is often synthesized in China. The active ingredient in Flakka is a-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-PVP); a chemical similar to cathinone, a naturally occurring stimulant substance found in a shrub called ‘khat’.

How is It Used?

Flakka can be eaten, snorted, injected, or even vaped using an e-cigarette. The DEA lists it as a schedule 1 substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no use as a medicine.

What Does it Look Like?

Usually, flakka is white or pink in color and comes in the form of crystals. These crystals are small pea-sized pieces resembling gravel. This is why its street name is ‘gravel’.

What Does it Smell Like?

Flakka is described as having a foul smell. When heated up, the smoke it produces is said to give off the smell of dirty socks.

What’s the Difference Between Flakka and Bath Salts?

Flakka and bath salts are very similar drugs. They have nearly the same effects, the same potential for abuse, and are taken in similar doses.

In fact, it is likely that flakka was invented by drug makers in labs after the active ingredients in bath salts were outlawed by the DEA. Bath salts can actually be a number of different drugs, each with slightly different chemical makeups. 

The main active ingredients in the drug known as ‘bath salts’ are MPDV, mephedrone, and methylone. All these chemicals were banned by the DEA in 2011. It was around this time that flakka began to be produced with alpha-PVP as its active ingredient.

Once the DEA caught wind of this, they banned alpha-PVP as well. Despite the fact that both bath salts and flakka are now illegal, they are both still used in the U.S. Both can cause users to act uncontrollably and violently, and they can both lead to a fatal overdose.

What Happens When You Take Flakka?

Flakka has effects that are unlike those of any other drug. It is called the ‘zombie drug’ because it can affect the muscular system, such that it makes people move in jerky, uncontrollable ways—just like zombies. 

But users don’t keep coming back for more flakka because of its zombie-like effects. The drug can also flood the brain with dopamine, which results in intense feelings of euphoria. It also triggers a reward response in users’ brains, making them come back for more.

Other short-term effects of flakka include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Aggressive behavior and violence
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, and irrational thinking and action
  • Extreme agitation, also called “excited delirium”–can result in seizures and death

The long-term effects of flakka have not been thoroughly researched. This is largely because the drug simply has not been around for very long. It is known, however, that the drug can cause renal failure. 

The major effects of flakka tend to last for 3 to 4 days, but longer times are possible, especially with higher doses. Also, keep in mind that flakka could be cut with other drugs, such as cocaine, meth, or heroin. These drugs could alter the effects of flakka, including how long the drug lasts.

Can You Get Addicted to Flakka?

Research on flakka addiction is scarce, but other synthetic cathinones are highly addictive. What scientists do know is that flakka induces a strong dopamine response in the brain. Other drugs that do the same, such as cocaine and crystal meth, are extremely addictive.

Another factor to consider is that flakka is very cheap. One gram of cocaine can cost as much as $80 or more, but a comparable amount of flakka tends to cost $3-$5 on the street. Since the drug is so accessible to people looking for a ‘quick fix,’ it can make it more likely for addiction to occur.

If you suspect that a loved one is using flakka or a similar drug, you need to act fast! Flakka is an extremely dangerous drug that can kill users in a number of different ways. It can also cause people to act violently and erratically, which can be harmful to themselves and others.

Professional drug addiction treatment is the only viable option for someone who is using flakka. Use our database of treatment centers to find the best possible care center in your area.


  1. Flakka (n.d.)
  2. Flakka (alpha-PVP) (n.d.)
  3. Flakka: Dangerous Drug for Teens

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