Palamar dismissed claims that the drug turns users into “zombies” or “cannibals.”
The real dangers include rapid heart rate, elevated body temperature, anxiety, seizures, agitation, aggression, hallucinations, paranoia, and suicidality, he said.
Even in the emergency room, it’s difficult to tell whether patients have ingested flakka, which doesn’t show up on routine drug tests, said Glatter.
Adolescents who don’t live with their parents or whose parents have less than a high school education are at higher risk of flakka use, according to the study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Flakka users also were more likely to report use of other drugs, including the synthetic cannabinoids spice and K2, ketamine, and marijuana. More than half of flakka users also used other drugs, researchers found.
“This suggests that the use of flakka or other ‘bath salts’ alone is rare and the use of multiple substances may compound adverse effects of these drugs,” said Palamar.
Glatter, who previously worked in hospitals in the Midwest, warned against assuming that use of flakka and other synthetic cathinones is limited to urban “club kids.”
“Rural areas of Ohio and Florida have been hotbeds of use,” he said. “It should be on our radar, especially among kids who are known to use other street drugs.”