A drug known for causing psychotic fits of paranoia may have arrived in the city, according to Winnipeg police.
Alpha-PVP is known on the street as Flakka or gravel, but is commonly referred to as the “zombie drug”.
Winnipeg police spokesperson Jay Murray told CTV News that the service is aware of the drug Flakka.
“We recently had a seizure which may possibly be that drug, but it’s subject to testing by Health Canada and at that point we should know more,” Murray said.
Murray said that testing could take two or more weeks, but the potential is concerning to police.
“My understanding is that this is a group of synthetic substances, and of course you’re just not sure how somebody’s going to react when they ingest it,” Murray said.
According to researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Flakka is chemically similar to bath salts and can cause an “excited delirium” that can lead to violent aggression.
Jim Hall is a drug abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University, and told CTV News the drug was frequently referred to in the U.S. as “five-dollar insanity”.
“Excited delirium is characterized first by a hypothermia: an extreme raise in body temperature to 105 degrees,” Hall said.
“That causes the user to often rip off their clothes, because they feel literally that their blood is on fire. And it can create intense paranoia where they feel they are being chased by imaginary wild animals, or people who are out to kill them.”
Hall also said users can also exhibit an extraordinary adrenaline-like strength, and that people started calling it the “zombie drug” partly for what it does to a user’s behavior.
“They are not able to speak clearly, they will break into fits. They think people are attempting to attack them. And the running through the streets is kind of a zombie characteristic,” Hall said.
The drug looks like little shards of crystal or glass you would find at the bottom of an aquarium, which Hall said earned it another street name: gravel.
Shelley Marshall is a clinical nurse specialist with Street Connections in Winnipeg and has worked with drug users for over 20 years, focusing on harm reduction.
While Marshall said she’s heard of Flakka and that any new drug is concerning, she emphasized the importance of knowing what is already causing harm in Winnipeg.
“There’s three prominent trends we’re seeing in drug use that we’re concerned about from a public health perspective,” Marshall said.
“One is a rise in injection drug use.”
Marshall also said use of crystal meth is on the rise, as is the use of fentanyl and carfentanil.
“The new thing always seemed to be the panic and we’re like ‘it can’t get worse’, but I actually feel like carfentanil can’t get worse; there is no stronger opioid,” Marshall said.
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