Fatal drug flakka surfaces in central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida is ground zero for the fight against a new drug -- one that already has been blamed for at least 16 deaths.

And while South Florida is known as the hotspot for flakka, the drug is starting to surface here in central Florida as well.

But 9 Investigates learned local agencies often cannot go after the dealer supplying users in Florida.

Channel 9's Karla Ray found that the deadly drug is being shipped in from China with just the click of a mouse.

The erratic behavior of a teenage girl was caught on a Melbourne Police dash camera. She is heard screaming, “I am God. I am life. Burn in hell!”

The teen was found running naked after jumping through a window, allegedly under the influence of flakka.

“It's not as prevalent as bath salts was, but from what we’ve seen and the videos I’ve seen, it is worse,” said Melbourne Police Cmdr. Dan Lynch.

It’s also called “gravel” or “alpha pvp.” The chemical makeup of flakka is similar to bath salts.

The drug is a stimulant that can be eaten, snorted, injected or vaporized. And when it is ingested, flakka causes body temperatures to rise and can prompt psychosis.

Lynch told Ray that his agency also arrested a naked man, who they believe was also high on flakka and trying to have sex with a tree.

"Every time we kind of get a handle on one (type of drug), they bring out another one, and they seem to be getting worse as we go through," Lynch explained.

But what is making the fight harder for local law enforcement is the fact that the dealer supplying the users here in Florida is based in China.

Although the drug is illegal, one quick online search brings up dozens of websites openly advertising the drug.

And with one click you can order 5 grams of flakka for $120. The same amount of cocaine would cost six times as much, according to law enforcement.

“It’s kind of outside our jurisdiction at that point,” Lynch said. “We can't check people's mail. We can't check people's houses.”

When it comes to international drug trafficking, that's a job for federal agencies, and it takes time to crack down on those enterprises.

So far, at least 16 deaths in South Florida are being attributed to the drug. And now flakka cases are starting to pop up in central Florida.

“What we see is people come in agitated with elevated blood pressure and heart rate and some even have a break with reality,” said Dr. Josef Thundiyil, a medical toxicologist.

From where he works inside Orlando Regional Medical Center’s emergency room, Thundiyil suspects some of his patients may have taken flakka without even knowing it. That’s because it easily could be mixed in with other drugs.

And as more videos emerge like the one documenting the bizarre behavior of the teenaged girl in Melbourne, Thundiyil’s concerns grow.

"It's very scary because not only is it new, but sometimes people have a perception that something new might be safe," he said.

Researchers in Ireland have developed a test to detect flakka in a user's system, and they hope to market the product in the United States.