South Florida's Flakka Craze May Already Be Over

Waka flakka, flamed out? The synthetic-drug epidemic that has gripped Broward County and spilled over into Miami-Dade more than two years ago may already be over thanks to an unprecedented level of coordination involved in the war on that drug. 

Flakka, known scientifically as alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone, had been floating around for years as an occasional ingredient in certain forms of "bath salts," but a rise in distribution and use was detected in 2013. In fact, federal authorities didn't even officially deem the drug illegal until early 2014. 

The drug often leaves users in a state of psychosis. Public rampages, frequently in the nude, were a common side-effect. People on the drug have done everything from crashing a car into a county jail and then spitting on cops and claiming to be both God and Satan, to climbing up a drawbridge in the buff

Broward was ground zero for the epidemic. In 2014, 870 criminal cases in the county were related to flakka. The epidemic, however, creeped into Miami-Dade, and the 145 cases here in 2014 were the second greatest in the nation. 

The Washington Post, however, reports the flakka freakouts may have hit their peak

In just a few months, and with little attention, flakka has disappeared from South Florida.

Experts say drug epidemics almost never burn out like this. Look at the current distress in vast swaths of the country over heroin and its synthetic cousin fentanyl. What happened in Florida, experts say, was the result of unprecedented coordination among local groups to fight flakka’s demand and — most importantly — the unusual willingness of the Chinese government to halt flakka’s production. Florida officials early on blamed overseas labs for supplying the drug flooding American shores.

The paper even followed one Broward County deputy on patrol as he cruised through the hangout spots where flakka users once gathered and wasn't able to find a single person on the drug. 

Hospitals in Broward treated 306 people on flakka in October. By December, that number was down to 54. 

Cutting off the supply was a major factor in the fight. On October 1 last year, China, a hot spot for manufacturing the synthetic drug, announced it would ban the substance and other related synthetic drugs. 

Meanwhile, feds cracked down on importers and dealers, and the first flakka trials are underway.

New forms of treatment and concentrated anti-flakka public awareness campaigns may have also helped. 

Like other forms of bath salts and the pain pill epidemic before it, flakka has loosened its grip on Florida. It's just one battle in a long so-called war on drugs, but officials hope they learned enough to help better prepare to stave off whatever epidemic pops up next. 

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