Over the last few years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been directing considerable resources to combating the proliferation of synthetic drugs. For those unfamiliar with these drugs, sold under names like spice or salvia, they are designed to mimic the high of other illegal drugs and can prove to be dangerous to the health of users.
These efforts to crack down on the flow of synthetic drugs have met with mixed results, however. The reason? Many manufacturers, often based in foreign nations, will simply change the chemical composition such that their products are technically not illegal and therefore readily available for purchase over the Internet.
One synthetic drug in particular that is now in the crosshairs of both the DEA and local law enforcement officials is Alpha-PVP.
Otherwise known by its street name flakka or gravel, Alpha-PVP is part of a class of drugs referred to as synthetic cathinones. Available on the street for roughly $5, Alpha-PVP can be snorted, vaporized or injected, and produces a sense of euphoria. However, it's also been linked to a multitude of dangerous health conditions, including cardiac problems, overheating, extreme paranoia and sometimes violent hallucinatory episodes.
Alpha-PVP, which many say is now supplanting crack cocaine, is developing a major presence here in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Broward County. Indeed, the sheriff's office is now handling roughly 100 flakka-related cases per month, while the county health system's emergency rooms are now reporting roughly 12 flakka-related cases per day.
While both state and federal officials are having problems stopping the proliferation of Alpha-PVP, it's worth noting that the DEA did classify it as a Schedule 1 drug last year, meaning those caught selling and/or distributing the drug now face potentially lengthy federal prison sentences.
It will be interesting to see just how many Alpha-PVP prosecutions we see in the coming year. Stay tuned for developments.