"Did you hear the story about the man who was found in Brevard County having sex with a tree?" While this may sound like the start to a joke, it's in fact the start to a real news story in 2014 involving a 41-year-old man who was arrested in Florida for several crimes related to use of the drug known as flakka.
His story isn't the only one, though. A number of stories in the last year or so have grabbed headlines and sprung flakka - and the state of Florida - into the national spotlight. And although flakka has been around since the 1960s, many still don't know what it is or how it affects people.
What is flakka?
Formally called alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone - or a-PVP for short - flakka is a synthesized, man-made drug that is sometimes referred to as being "stronger than meth or cocaine" and incredibly addictive. The drug is known to cause mild hallucinations in small doses, explains a New Times Broward-Palm Beach article, and "very irrational behavior at high doses," explains a drugpolicy.org post.
Why has it become such a problem in Florida?
Some speculate that flakka has become such a major problem in Florida because it's inexpensive, easy to obtain and incredibly addictive.
But these aren't the only reasons people should be concerned. Flakka use can also lead to serious criminal charges. Not only can a person be charged with crimes they commit while high on the drug, they may also face other drug charges, including possession and possibly even trafficking charges, after an arrest.
Is flakka illegal in the United States?
At present time, the Drug Enforcement Administration only has flakka listed as a Schedule I drug temporarily under the provisions laid out by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This does not, however, mean that the drug is legal. The DEA warns people that anyone arrested for using, manufacturing, distributing or importing flakka may be charged with a drug crime and prosecuted in accordance with applicable laws.
This means that if a person is arrested for using or possessing flakka in Florida, they could face federal prosecution, which oftentimes includes harsher prosecution and punishments than at the state level.