Could This Drug Cause A Zombie Apocalypse?

“I am God! I am Satan!” These words were screamed by a 17-year-old girl in Melbourne, Australia Naked and bloody, she ran through the window of a house before throwing herself at a moving car

In Florida, student Austin Harrouff was just 19 when he savagely stabbed a couple to death, before chewing the face off another victim With superhuman strength, he threw off several policemen before being subdued Both of these people were fuelled by a drug known as “flakka”, or “gravel” Since 2010, it has caused a rising number of extremely violent and frequently cannibalistic attacks “Flakka” is the street name for the highly potent amphetamine derivative alpha-PVP

It is usually manufactured in China, and distributed in the United States for between $3 and $5 a hit It is relatively inexpensive compared to similar drugs, which has contributed to its unprecedented popularity Methods of consumption include snorting, eating, vaporising and injecting It is related to the lethal “bath salts”, a collective name for a group of highly toxic stimulants These drugs were actually first synthesised in French laboratories between 1928 and 1929 for medical research

Their extreme side effects led to official projects being disbanded, and their simultaneous emergence on the Soviet Union recreational black market They first started coming to police attention in the States in the 1990s In 2012, two of bath salts’ key ingredients were criminalised by the US government It wasn’t long before underground chemists tweaked the molecular arrangements of these ingredients to get around the law

And so, flakka was born Data from the US Drug Enforcement Administration shows that in 2010 there were no reported cases of flakka By 2014, police were involved in 670 cases of its use – an increase of almost 700% If flakka continues to spread at this rate, it could see an epidemic of uncontrollable civilian violence overwhelm the entire United States by 2020

The drug gives users a feeling of intense euphoria But it also causes body temperature to soar to up to 405 degrees Celcius, and disturbing hallucinations Users become fixated and violent, believing they have divine powers As journalist Daniel Vasquez warns, flakka is ""a dangerous designer drug that turns people into zombies

the psychological effects could be permanent"" In Broward County in Florida, county Sheriff Scott Israel said “I have never seen a drug gain popularity so quickly” It is certainly responsible for a shocking volume of deaths: in Fort Lauderdale it was responsible for at least 63 deaths including suicides, homicides, accidents and overdoses

In 2015 South Illinois police released a tape showing a man high on flakka writhing around on the floor, screaming, overturning furniture and hurling himself at walls In another case from the same year, 41-year-old Kenneth Crowder was arrested after intimidating members of the public He declared himself to be the Viking god Thor and tried to stab a cop with his own police badge Before being captured, Crowder stripped off to reveal his erection and vigorously humped a tree The man was mindless and dangerous – if enough people consumed flakka at the same time, police could be overwhelmed by their unpredictability, their enormous strength and their violence

Yet, the drug appears to have fallen out of favour as fast as it rose to popularity Between October and December 2014, flakka-related hospital cases dropped from 300 to 54 a month in Broward County, Florida, the geographical centre of the epidemic This is probably due to government intervention Following the spree of flakka-linked crimes, the White House pressured the Chinese government into a national crackdown on illegal flakka manufacturing In November 2015 they bolstered existing anti-drug efforts by criminalising 115 synthetic drugs – flakka included

This has significantly reduced its production and use However, it would be a mistake to assume the danger is over While flakka production has abruptly slowed down, in the space it left a new product in this fresh breed of synthetic drugs has risen, flooding the American streets Known as “pink”, the drug is eight times stronger than heroin In some cases, brief contact with the skin has resulted in death

It is currently legal to purchase and consume in the United States Although it is a depressant, rather than a stimulant like “flakka”, it produces a similar effect in people who take it This includes uncontrolled and erratic behaviour, and terrifying violent attacks Between October 2015 and October 2016, at least 50 pink-related overdose deaths were recorded in the USA Its emergence shows how even though flakka may be disappearing, there is always another synthetic drug being brewed to wreak havoc and induce zombie-like effects

Some, such as journalist Ben Taub, suggest that the rise in synthetic drug use is directly linked with the dawn of the dark web The data support this hypothesis A 2014 study conducted by the Dutch government estimated dark web drug sales totalled around $211 million per month This was a 100% increase on the previous year

The growth of illicit distribution networks is yet another uncontrollable factor that could contribute to a zombified human threat The effects of flakka are gruesome and spooky, turning users into flesh-eating killers with superhuman strength It is dangerous, but recent restrictions on its production may prevent it spawning a crisis of apocalyptic proportions Yet, synthetic drug manufacturers are always hunting for a recipe stronger, faster and more lucrative than those that have come before Therefore, a flakka-fuelled zombie apocalypse looks unlikely to happen any time soon

But, thanks to sophisticated chemical laboratories and the growth of the dark web, it may only be a matter of time before pink or something even more sinister is terrorising communities once again

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