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What You Should Know About Quitting Flakka

How to Stop Using Flakka

Flakka, or “gravel,” is a relatively new street drug with molecular similarities to the active stimulant chemical in bath salts. Symptoms of flakka intoxication include rapid heart rate, high body temperature, paranoia, and in severe cases, death. 1, 2, 3

Given the range and severity of side effects, anyone abusing flakka should seek treatment from a recovery program.

Read on to learn more about quitting flakka, including:

Benefits of Quitting Flakka

  • Enhanced health and wellbeing: Quitting flakka will significantly reduce your chances of suffering liver and kidney failure, heart attack, and death. It also will reduce your chances of experiencing prolonged anxiety, depression, and psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, and delirium. 1, 2, 3
  • Repaired relationships: People who are abusing substances commonly lie, steal, break plans, display erratic moods, and do other things to keep their addictions hidden. Therapists and other staff in recovery programs can help you process things you may have done while you were abusing flakka and help you begin repairing the damage your addiction may have caused.
  • More free time: When you’re addicted to flakka, much of your time is spent either obtaining the drug or using it. You spend less time pursuing hobbies you once enjoyed or being with loved ones. Quitting flakka will lead to more quality time to spend with yourself and others.

Flakka Addiction Treatment Centers and Recovery Program Options

The side effects of using flakka can be severe and life-threatening, and withdrawal symptoms are not well documented. Because of its similarities with other abused stimulants, the potential for health damage due to abuse, and uncertainties over its withdrawal syndrome, substance abuse treatment in an inpatient setting may provide the safest recovery option . Outpatient care can ensure sustained recovery after you or your loved one is stabilized.
  • Inpatient programs: Residential detox facilities and inpatient rehab are two inpatient options to consider when deciding to quit flakka. Detox facilities assist with the acute intoxication and manage any withdrawal symptoms that may arise during the first few days to a week after you decide to quit using flakka. Inpatient treatment facilities are longer-term, offering care for 28 days to several months. Many inpatient facilities incorporate detox and aftercare follow-up to bookend a duration of treatment interventions that may include individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and classes on nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, and relaxation. These facilities can greatly vary in price, location, and length of stay.
  • Outpatient programs: Outpatient programs are often used for follow-up and maintenance aftercare, though some people do use them as their primary form of treatment. These programs can be less expensive than inpatient and allow you to continue to live at home while working through a recovery program. But they do not offer the same intensity of care as inpatient. Varieties of an outpatient care model include partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), individual counseling, group counseling and 12-Step programs.
  • Partial hospitalization programs: Partial hospitalization is an intensive outpatient treatment approach that consists of frequent and regular daily substance abuse therapy either in a hospital setting or with free access to hospital-based clinicians and services. Partial hospitalization is a great option for those who have made strides in recovery, are likely to fare well in the inter-treatment interim (i.e., when they go home at night), yet are still quite dependent on various medical services and support as part of their recovery.
  • Intensive outpatient programs: Treatment times and approaches offered through an intensive outpatient program setting will differ. But frequently these are half-day programs that can vary from two to five days a week. Often the primary substance abuse treatment strategy of IOPs is group therapy. Medications are not monitored in IOP, so you need a prescribing physician who can monitor any psychotropic medications you may need to aid in your recovery.
  • Individual counseling: Individual therapy can be very beneficial for long-term recovery. It can teach you more about your triggers for use, as well as thoughts, beliefs, emotions, or past traumas that may be driving your abuse. You’ll learn more positive ways to engage with yourself and the world around you. Seek out a trained and certified addiction specialist when considering individual therapy because these professionals are best equipped to deal with issues specific to substance abuse. The credentials to look for in a therapist are certified addiction counselor (CAC I, II, or III).
  • Group counseling: Group therapy gives you an opportunity to get feedback from others and to gain awareness of your reactions to people when they trigger you. You can also reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness that are risk factors for relapse. Some people use individual and group therapy as primary forms of treatment.
  • 12-step programs: These programs operate free of charge (with voluntary weekly donations). They are focused on peer support and following a set program. They also refer to a higher power that members use to aid in their recovery. A 12-step program can offer similar benefits to group counseling, and many people who have achieved sustained recovery credit the help of 12-step programs.

Flakka Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects

Research on flakka withdrawal is limited. As stimulants of the cathinone class, the symptoms of intoxication and abuse of flakka are broadly understood and documented, however.

Side effects range from moderate to severe and fatal. They include: 1, 2, 3

  • Agitation.
  • Aggression.
  • Confusion.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations and psychosis.
  • Excessive sweating or abnormally high temperature (hyperthermia).
  • Pupil dilation.
  • Chest pain.
  • Hypertension.
  • Heart palpitations and tachycardia (rapid heart rate).
  • Shortness of breath or shallow rapid breath.
  • Heart attack.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bizarre and repetitive movements.
  • Seizures or tremors.
  • Breakdown of muscle that releases damaging proteins into the blood (rhabdomyolysis).
  • Abnormal liver function and liver failure.
  • Death from complications or by suicide.

Detox and Withdrawal

The cumulative side effects of flakka abuse and intoxication can take a toll on one’s health, and may warrant medically supervised detox to ensure a safe recovery.

It is unknown how long flakka withdrawal takes. But the duration of withdrawal will most likely depend upon the following factors:

  • The amount of flakka you or your loved one used prior to detox.
  • The length of time that you or your loved one used flakka.
  • The presence of any medical or psychiatric issues.
  • Factors such as age and genetics.

Tips for Quitting

Deciding to quit using flakka is the first step in the recovery journey. Here are some tips to increase your chances of staying clean and sober.
  • Tap into your support system. Without support, it is much more likely that you will relapse at some point. Find a few people you feel comfortable sharing your addiction with – people you can trust and who will be supportive and non-judgmental.
  • Consider treatment for flakka abuse. Get recommendations from someone in your support group or contact one of our representatives (see box to the right).
  • Know your triggers. Note the things in your immediate environment that may trigger a relapse. Common triggers include friends you got high with, places you went when you were high or to get flakka, and putting yourself in stressful situations.
  • Commit to recovery. Most of the benefits in therapy come from work done in between sessions. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, even when the topics feel uncomfortable. Pushing yourself a little outside of your comfort zone will lead to better results than doing the bare minimum. Maintaining a commitment to sobriety requires that you really understand the underlying reasons why you began to abuse substances. Once you gain awareness, it will be easier to identify when you are being triggered and how you can avoid a relapse.
  • Make sure you have aftercare in place. Aftercare is any form of ongoing care you receive after leaving a recovery program. It increases your chances of success as it provides support, accountability, and a safe place to discuss any issues that may arise throughout your recovery. Recovery doesn’t stop when you leave treatment. In fact, that’s when the real work begins. You have to face the challenges of everyday life without supervision – or flakka. Having a therapist or a supportive group can help you remain accountable to yourself and your sustained recovery.

How to Help an Addict Quit

Addiction to flakka can be very strong. Unless the person is ready to deal with the problem, your attempt to help may be met with denial or even confrontation and blaming. While these are normal reactions for an addict, they can be extremely difficult for a loved one to deal with. Remaining calm, centered, and non-defensive will help the process go more smoothly and may even ease your loved one’s resistance to getting help.

Sticking to the guidelines below can increase your confidence and the likelihood that your attempt will be successful.

Tips for Approaching the Person

  • Prepare a list of recent events that led to your concern.
  • Use “I” statements when you’re speaking about your concerns, such as “I have noticed some things about you that make me scared for your safety” or “I would like to understand what is going on with you so that I can help.”
  • Contact a few therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers and prepare some resources for your loved one.
  • Assure the person that you are only trying to help and let them know in what capacity you are willing to do so, now and throughout his or her recovery.
  • Approach the person when he or she is not intoxicated.

What to Avoid

  • Avoid accusations and blaming statements. Don’t lecture.
  • Avoid statements that imply you’re judging the person for his or her addiction.
  • Avoid enabling your loved one through your actions or words, including giving him or her money or making excuses for his or her actions.
  • Stop the conversation if your loved one is not receptive. Let the person know you are serious about helping and will give him or her time to think about it. But don’t pressure the person to make a decision before he or she is ready.

Can I Quit Cold Turkey? Is It Dangerous?

While flakka withdrawal is not well-understood, there are a number of risks with abruptly quitting other synthetic cathinones or drugs of abuse:

  • Underlying mental health disorders. Many people who abuse drugs such as flakka have a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression. The symptoms of such conditions may be masked during drug abuse. When someone stops using, these symptoms may reappear and even become more intense during withdrawal.
  • Cravings. Synthetic cathinones such as flakka can trigger intense cravings to use. 4 These can be very difficult to manage without professional help and can lead to a relapse.
  • Lack of relapse prevention tools. Inpatient and outpatient recovery programs help you identify triggers, reasons why you use, and how to live without drugs. These tools are very difficult to learn on your own.
  • Medical complications. Seeking the guidance and supervision of a trained professional can make the withdrawal process more comfortable and monitor any medical issues that may need emergency attention.

Find a Rehab Center for Flakka

If you or someone you love is abusing or showing signs of addiction to flakka, please do not hesitate to contact one of our recovery support representatives at . A trained advisor can assist you in finding a rehab program based on your insurance coverage.

If you or your loved one doesn’t have insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) toll-free helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to low-cost programs in your area.

[1]. Gussow, L. (2015). Toxicology rounds: Flakka: Illicit drug triggering bizarre behavior. Emergency Medicine News, 37(11), 24.

[2]. Prosser, J. M., & Nelson, L. S. (2012). The Toxicology of Bath Salts: A Review of Synthetic Cathinones. Journal of Medical Toxicology, 8(1), 33-42.

[3]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Emerging Trends: Flakka..

[4]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are synthetic cathinones?

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