Special report: South Florida flakka epidemic
Story by: Lauren Hills/CBS12 News
DEERFIELD (CBS12) --Flakka is the latest designer drug sweeping south Florida. Law enforcement officials say it's an epidemic, and it's growing fast.
Broward County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Ozzy Tianga took CBS12's Lauren Hills on an exclusive ride along to see the problem first hand.
"I have people that smoke crack-cocaine for 15/20 years saying, 'crack don't get me high anymore, I need Flakka,'" said Tianga.
Flakka is a synthetic drug that's new to the United States. It's made and legal in China and has worked its way here in the last year or so.
"You can put it in water, drink it with your drink, take it with a tablet, pill, smoke it, snort it, inject it," said Tianga.
The cheap, intense high is known as "$5 insanity" because it brings on delusions, paranoia and raises the user's body temperature so much that the person often rips of his clothes.
It's believed that one man, caught on cell phone video running naked across the road in Boca Raton, was likely on it. Same for another person caught streaking through the streets of Ft. Lauderdale.
"It's more like dealing with somebody with a severe mental illness than drug addiction," said Tianga.
Sgt. Tianga took CBS12 to some of the Flakka hotspots in Broward County, mainly in the northern part close to Palm Beach County.
We first found a 29-year-old who admitted he shot up Flakka just an hour before.
"If I could use it daily, I'd do it daily. If I could use it hourly, I'd use it hourly," he said.
Sgt. Tianga says no drugs were found on him at the time. We moved on.
It was becoming obvious how dangerous this drug can be and people in the community are very concerned about it.
People like Lakia Fields and Shirley Williams. They described the effect from their family members who use Flakka.
"Paranoid, the world is against you," said Fields.
"He's taking off his clothes, burning up, seeing demons," said Williams.
Then just minutes later, Fields' nephew walked up and admitted he uses Flakka.
He had a wild look in his eyes.
"Every morning, every second of the day," he said.
"It's taking over our community period, it's destroying our community," said Fields.
Sgt. Tianga said during a given shift, they'll get up to ten Flakka related calls. If needed, those found under the influence are sent to the hospital for treatment, but often end up back on the streets.
"I talk to them after using, they hate themselves, so disappointed," he said.
But they're also hooked so they keep coming back to it.
As far as solutions, Tianga said it's not easy but law enforcement agencies are trying be proactive to get the drugs off the street.
"We're on a mission to hunt out all the Flakka we can," he said.
The high itself may be cheap but the deadly delusion is costly.