I’ll never forget my first firearms training course. The Rhode Island cop lecturing the classroom of aspiring newbies wanted us to know that bad guys on drugs possessed superhuman strength. They were completely insensitive to both reason and pain. The main drug in question was crystal meth. “Don’t just shoot them and expect them to fall down,” he warned. “Shoot them a many times as you can.” Flash forward God-knows-how-many-years and we’re talking about a new crystalline “devil’s drug.” nbcnews.com reports . . .
On the street, it’s known as flakka — a synthetic crystal imported from China that is wreaking havoc in South Florida and threatening to spread its misery and profits across the country.
It’s cheap, crazily addictive and terrifying. A single dose smoked, swallowed or snorted can give a user a potent but fleeting rush — or turn them into a paranoid zombie with superhuman strength and off-the-charts vital signs.
In the 14 months since the epidemic began in Broward County, 60 people have died. Hospitals are getting dozens of patients a day. And some nights, half the calls to police are flakka-related emergencies.
Floridians say it’s the worst drug crisis they have seen since the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. First responders describe nightmarish scenes with users running naked into traffic or impaling themselves on fences.
Pharmacologically speaking, flakka is cathinone or benzoylethanamine, derived from the khat plant. [Click here to read more about the “cousin to bath salts.”] wikipedia.org has the 411 on flakka’s seemingly benign origins . . .
Over 20 million people in the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa chew khat leaves daily. It is an important piece of the culture and economy in this region, especially in Ethiopia, where khat is said to have originated, Kenya, Djibouti, and Yemen. Men usually chew it during parties or other social gatherings while smoking cigarettes and drinking tea. Farmers and other workers also use khat in the afternoon to reduce fatigue and hunger as the day goes on. It functions like the caffeine in a strong cup of coffee as an anti-fatigue drug. Students and drivers have been known to use it to stay alert for longer periods of time.
Crystalized and smoked, cathinone makes people go ape shit, apparently. NBC portrays flakka as “the new crack.” Only worse . . .
“I talk to patrol and they say it’s every other call some nights…just one after the other, all flakka-related calls,” said Capt. Dana Swisher of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
“Anytime we respond to a flakka-related call from patrol, we’re gonna require at last three to four officers to respond.” . . .
When they arrive, their heart rate is often between 150 and 200 beats per minute, with blood pressure at “near-lethal” levels like 230/160. They may have been injured struggling with rescue workers and sometimes their kidneys are already failing.
“They come in hot, crazy, insane, out of their mind and then on top of that, fast heart rate and high blood pressure,” he said.
“I would say of all the drugs I’ve seen — cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, Oxycontin — this is the absolute worst.”
“It’s five-dollar insanity,” he added.
Coming to a neighborhood near you?
Outside of Florida, where the substance is sometimes called “gravel,” clusters of cases have also been seen in big cities like Chicago, Houston and New York City and in more rural states like Kentucky.
What’s so alarming is how quickly it gains ground. In 2013, Broward County’s crime lab tested just seven samples of flakka that was seized or found in fatalities. By 2014, that was up to 576, and it’s topped 900 so far this year, [co-chair of the United Way’s flakka team and an epidemiologist Jim] Hall said.
What does this have to do with guns? Perhaps nothing.
The NBC report doesn’t say whether the Florida cops are triple-teaming flakka addicts because of user’s violent tendencies. But if we assume flakka press coverage isn’t another example of “reefer madness,” we might also assume that flakka addiction will lead to increased criminal predation by its addicts. At the least, it will continue to support the violent gangs that control the illegal drug trade.
While I never discount the simple, incredibly powerful effects of adrenalin on criminal behavior, it appears the RI cop may have provided sound advice. Prematurely. Something to consider. As well as the possibility that the media’s flakka coverage will increase the number of Americans exercising their gun rights. Which is no bad thing, really. [Note: legally speaking, armed self-defenders may only shoot to “stop the threat” (not kill). However many rounds that takes, and no more.]