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One percent of US teenagers are using flak – but it could be more



"The main finding was that less than 1% of high school seniors are estimated to have used flak in the past year," said Joseph Palamar, associate professor of population health at NYU Langone and lead author of the study. Tuesday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The research, which Palamar said was the first national study on flaked use, analyzed data from the Monitoring of Future, an annual survey that looks at drug use in high school students, conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan .

The study found that students had used flakka in the previous year, 19.2% had used it more than 40 times. Those who used it knowingly were more likely to live away from their parents and have used other drugs.

"The importance is that we are able to draw attention to this dangerous drug right now," Palamar said. "What is flakka (aka gravel) and why is it more dangerous than cocaine?" ”

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However, even more people could have used flakka without necessarily knowing it.

"I think a lot of people are using without realizing it, especially ecstasy users, Molly users," he said.

Other experts agree.

"The thing we found very clearly – and we know this from the novel psychoactive substance world – people say they are taking something, but it does not necessarily mean that that's what it's in. We know this from ecstasy , "said Dr. Dan Castellanos, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Florida International University, who was not involved in the new research.
In Castellanos' own research, only one of six samples analyzed actually contained a flak, even though the users believed that they were what they were taking.

The stimulant, which Castellanos said has been called "the poor person's cocaine," led to 80 deaths in Florida alone between September 2014 and December 2015, according to a new study. There were 2,000 emergency department visits related to its use in Broward County during that period; 15% were under the age of 25. One of the youngest, according to the research, was a 13-year-old.

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Flakka, also known as gravel, is in the class of novel psychoactive substances, Castellanos said. Some related products are called bath salts. It can be smoked, injected or snorted.

"They're like your bath salts, they look like it sometimes," he said. "These are all novel psychoactive substances, which means that they are made chemically, they are imported, there are multiple variations, there are different peaks and outbreaks over time."

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Flakka is also a stimulant. "It really gets people very, very agitated," Castellanos said. "That includes things like agitation, effects on all the typical systems of your body, increased blood pressure, pulse, sometimes even your temperature."

It has also become known for more severe reactions, including one man who broke down hurricane doors after using the drug and a woman who ran through the streets screaming that she was Satan.

"What really stands out about flak is the wacky behavior that is sometimes associated with its use," Palamar said. "It is bizarre, and you will see that word, even in medical journals, because there is no other way to describe it."

While Palamar is still unaware of this drug, Palamar is still cautioned against its use.

"That's one thing that needs to be known: It does not have that effect on everyone who uses it," he said. "It's a very potent drug. It's as potent as methamphetamine."

Journalist Carina Storrs has contributed to this report


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