FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) -- It's a new designer drug that is showing up across South Florida. It's called "flakka" and drug experts say it's extremely dangerous.
Investigators with the Broward Sheriff's Office said "flakka" is a synthetic drug similar to bath salts which can produce dangerous hallucinations and cause serious medical problems.
Sgt. Ted Taranu of the Broward Sheriff's Office said deputies are seeing increasing amounts of flakka on the streets and fear it could be the hot new drug of choice. He says flakka, also known as gravel or by its' scientific name, Alpha PVP, is especially dangerous because of what users don't know about it.
"You got no idea what's in it when you take it," Taranu said. "It's whatever the person puts in it to sell it."
Experts said the drug, which looks like crystals, usually comes in gel caps and is smoked, injected or ingested and if a user takes too much of it, it can cause lifelong kidney problems, heart problems, paranoia and have other potentially deadly side effects.
Jim Hall is an epidemiologist and sits on the United Way of Broward County's Commission on Substance Abuse. He said another dangerous side effect of flakka is called "excited delirium."
"The body temperature rises to an extreme level," Hall said. "The person becomes psychotic often runs out into the street tearing off their clothes. They become very violent."
Hall said flakka is popular among the 18 to 30 year old crowd and is big on the club scene. He compares its' rise to ecstasy in the 1990's and even molly just a few years ago. He says flakka could be even more dangerous.
"We've had seizures of flakka in South Florida that have turned out to be combinations of cocaine plus methamphetamine plus heroin, which is addiction on steroids," Hall said.
Hall said the statistics on flakka are alarming. He says in 2013 there were less than 60 cases of flakka that showed up in Florida crime labs.
By 2014, that number had risen to more than 670, Hall said.
Experts said part of the problem with synthetic drugs like flakka, bath salts and spice is that the drug makers tweak the chemical makeup to skirt existing laws.
"They have more information on this new drug than we do so by the time we play catch up they'll be something newer and then we'll have to play catch up again," said Taranu.
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