Called flakka, but known on the street as ‘gravel’ and by chemists as alpha-PVP, the terrifying hallucinogen has earned a reputation as one of America’s scariest drugs – and it’s being synthesised in China and shipped in the kilograms to Australia.
Users can order the drug online and have it delivered to their mailbox the next day, or find an synthetic alternative in their local sex shop shelves – with no understanding of its dosage or contents.
Tyren Edwards, National Chief Scientist at Safe Work Laboratory, told Daily Mail Australia flakka was easier to get a hold of than methamphetamine in Australia.
‘Methamphetamine is harder to get hold of than flakka in Australia, it’s definitely out there … (but) you can only judge it on the seizures of synthetics which are hardly ever reported.’
Mr Edwards said as little as six grains of flakka was enough to send a user into a chemical state of oblivion, and could result in death in just 10 minutes.
He said the drug could be manufactured for just $0.75 a hit.
Adelaide forensic toxicologist Andrew Leibie, who has recorded positive tests in Australian workers to flakka and who has evidence of the drug turning up in post mortems, said the drug is being sold in places like Newcastle and Wollongong.
‘The problem with alpha-PVP is that it’s a mix of a potent hallucinogen like LSD with a potent stimulant like ice. They are at the same time extremely aggressive and extremely frightened,’ Mr Leibie told Daily Mail Australia last year.
‘So you will get people smashing through windows or running through traffic as they are hallucinating because they think the walls are possessed and they throw themselves off a balcony.
‘Flakka is that it has not been strictly illegal, because it’s a new drug developed in China most likely by a 19-year-old on a computer.’
‘They sell it over the internet and it’s inexpensive because there are virtually no middle men.’
One of the hundreds of different variations of drugs known as bath salts, which Mr Lebie says has hit the market in a ‘tsunami’ of compounds almost impossible to regulate, flakka has caused mayhem in towns and cities.
Mr Leibie said flakka does not show up in traditional drugs blood and saliva tests. But the national drug testing company he works for, Safe Work Laboratories, has recorded dozens of positive tests for the drug.
Multinationals and local companies are now requesting flakka detection among the drug tests Safe Work perform on staff.
We have had several approaches from large companies, mostly mining companies but some oil and gas companies as well, who have specifically asked us to test for flakka
‘It’s hard to say how much is being used in Australia because we are asked to test for it when staff have been noticed smoking something at work and then being out of it and we have tested and got, say, four or five in the one place.
‘But it is not generally tested for so people could be pulled up by police and blood tested and it wouldn’t come up.’