WSVN — Flakka has fueled a new drug epidemic in South Florida that experts are now comparing to the crack cocaine curse of the 1980s, but with the rise of online drug dealing, are the Feds fighting a losing battle? Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.

Bizarre behavior on the streets of South Florida is nothing new, and it can be caused by any number of substances. But the latest drug being sold here, flakka, has been dubbed “five-dollar insanity.”

Police say it’s behind a number of strange incidents in Broward, including a man running naked through the streets to another impaled on a fence. And flakka is a killer. It is blamed in the deaths of 24 people in Broward County alone in less than a year. People here are paying the price for a drug being made on the other side of the world.

Robert Hutchinson, Deputy Special Agent in Charge: “From what we’re seeing, the great majority is manufactured from China, shipped from China.”

Robert Hutchinson, a top Homeland Security official in Miami, says the agency is working with the DEA and State Department to combat the synthetic drug problem in China. But it’s a challenge. The chemical in flakka, “alpha-PVP,” is not yet illegal in China.

Robert Hutchinson: “It is very difficult when the source nation does not see it as a problem or an illegal item. When they’re looking at it as just a chemical, as a chemical, you would not think about in a million years to ingest.”

But addicts are ingesting it, and at an alarming rate. Two Central Florida men were recently arrested, accused of planning to bring a half-million dollars worth of flakka from China to Broward County.

And flakka is being openly sold online. One website boasts free samples, multiple shipping destinations and guaranteed delivery.

And the effects of the drugs are devastating. One family, who didn’t want to go on camera sent a letter, saying: “Flakka took what once was a strong, smart mind and twisted it into a paranoid schizophrenic confusion. When high on flakka, he is incoherent, talking to spirits we can’t see.”

Robert Hutchinson: “It is different from looking at the cartels, or other organizations. This is a much easier business to get into. You can have a quick startup and you can be into the drug business in no time. And it’s very easy, and that’s what’s very concerning to us.”

In the 1980s, South Florida was at the heart of a cheap form of cocaine called crack. Now 30 years later, flakka’s sweeping the streets with deadly results.

Robert Hutchinson: “If you’re old enough to remember when crack really broke out and the impact of it, which I am, we see the storm coming, and we’d really like to get ahead of it.”

Carmel Cafiero: “But when dealers can buy online and sell for $5 a hit on the streets, getting ahead of this deadly storm is far easier said than done. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.”


Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
You can also send a tweet to @carmelonthecase.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox