With South Florida emergency rooms overflowing and body counts rising, the only way to halt an epidemic of the designer drug Flakka is education and community outreach.
That’s the discouraging message Broward County Sheriff’s officials brought Wednesday to the Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana.
Five hundred police officers, sheriff’s deputies and EMTs, wearing the uniforms of more than 100 agencies, shifted in their seats as Broward Sheriff’s Detective William Schwartz kicked off the daylong Flakka seminar.
“These are drugs today, guys…PHO, shatter, butter, research chemicals, bath salts and spice. I mean, nothing that we’re used to. Nothing that we would be expecting to see as the biggest drugs of abuse in Broward County for sure, but also throughout the country, and I’ll show you…”
Somewhere in that soup is Alpha PVP, or “Flakka,” a white powder that sent 40 Broward County victims to the morgue in the past 8 months and others running paranoid and naked down the streets.
Broward Sheriff’s executive director David Scharf:
“The internal organs are actually melting as a result of this. The body is not able to flush these toxins out sufficiently, and what’s happening is kidneys are failing and organs are failing and people are dying as a result of that.”
At certain doses, Flakka creates a crystal meth like high and can be more addicting than cocaine, experts say. But the line between euphoria and so-called “excited delirium” is razor thin.
Excited delirium has caused victims to throw rocks through police department windows and impale themselves on fences. Adrenaline dumps give them super human strength. Untrained police could make a tragic mistake, Scharf says.
“So the signs that we know and we see are going to be important for us to impart on these folks so that they don’t make a mistake and shoot somebody.”
Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young says he invited his Broward counterparts to North Florida because he thinks the plague is spreading. Young says two deaths have been attributed to Flakka in Gadsden since June and emergency medical personnel are fielding five calls a day.
In South Georgia, Grady County Sheriff Harry Young says flakka is just beginning to rear its head. He says it’s causing problems at the jail.
“It seems like it’s worse, really, as far as the attitude people have when they take this drug. It’s hard to control them. Even when they come to jail. We have to put them aside, put them separate, because they’re more violent.”
Leon County Sheriff’s Sergeant Grady Jordan, a narcotics officer, says his unit has already arrested flakka dealers in drug stings. He says what’s happening in Broward worried him enough to come to the seminar.
“Hopefully with this type of training and education of our citizenry, we won’t get to that level.”
The good news, according to Broward County Sheriff’s lieutenant Ozzie Tianga is that the trend might be slowing. The four hospitals tracking flakka-related admissions in Broward County report the number of daily admissions has fallen – from 11 to 9.