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From student to killer

On Monday, Aug. 15, Austin Harrouff was found biting off pieces of John Stevens’ face, while Michelle Stevens lay dead a few feet away. Although toxicology reports have all come back negative, there is a drug that takes longer to detect, called Flakka.
I am no toxicologist and I could be wrong, but last year I was given an assignment on this specific drug. I found out that Flakka is a very dangerous drug – it gives the user hallucinations and paranoia. It makes them abnormally strong with violent actions. Known as the zombie drug, it takes all consciousness from the user.
I believe that Harrouff may have taken Flakka. I do not believe that Harrouff would have been able to attack three victims and withstand a Taser if not in some disorientation. Martin County Sheriff, William Snyder, said that “he was a good kid.” Why would a “good kid” of sober mind murder two innocent people?
Harrouff was described as being abnormally strong and “growling” when the police showed up. These are symptoms of a Flakka user. Friends and family also said he was acting out of character all week long, claiming to be “immortal.”  Through my research last year, I found out that there have been reports of many other Flakka users having gone through the same thing.
I personally cannot see a sane student turning into a killer overnight. Reading over Harrouff’s story, there is no other reason that I can come up with other than mental, which has already been ruled out by his mother. Good people don’t kill good people.
I am a freshman, so I say this from the point of view of a reader, not a college student: I do not think that college is a place for drugs. I find them irrelevant from the perspective of learning at school. I understand the mindset of letting loose in college; I also plan to have fun these next few years, but, reading this story made me realize that this could be me one day. I could be the student that took the drug and is now facing capital punishment. I don’t want to ever put myself into the position that Harrouff is in.
I understand that many will read this piece in disagreement with me. I also know personally that many students deal with drugs on a daily basis. I’ve read about too many consequences of drugs to treat them lightly.
I know secondhand what drugs can do to someone; I have watched my cousin smoke his life away, daily. He now is 27-years-old and living in his parents’ basement. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live like that.
Harrouff was a normal college student with a good life. Now, he is going to face capital punishment or jail for life without bail. That could be you or me – it’s your decision if you let it happen.

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    Damien CandelariaAug 25, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Okay, I feel the need to dispel some of the mythology surround “flakka” and other pyrovalerones, a.k.a. “Bath Salts.” Firstly though, this street lingo is stupid. It’s a symptom of an undereducated populous and police force, and it is propogated by prohibitionists that realize the best way to make people afraid of drugs is to lie about them. I will refer to “Flakka” by its chemical name, α-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone, or α-PVP.
    α-PVP a psychostimulant belonging to the cathinone class of drugs, which also include β-keto-MDMA (Methylone), MDPV, Cathinone, and others. It is similar in both structure and pharmacology to amphetamines, working as a Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor. Like those drugs, hallucinations, paranoia, and violent behavior (stimulant psychosis) are not inherent to the drug, but are associated with long-term abuse (benders) or acute overdose.
    I don’t mean to suggest that this chemical isn’t potentially dangerous, but before ignorantly demonizing all drugs let us analyze the “problem” as a whole. The cathinones are, in general, far more cardiotoxic than the phenethylamines that largely inspired their design (mostly MDMA). Vasoconstriction and tachycardia are more pronounced with these chemicals than with other stimulants, making careful attention to dosage particularly important. Unfortunately, that’s quite hard to do when the chemicals are often sold as MDMA or some generic “bath salt.” α-PVP dosage should not exceed 30mg orally, or around 10mg insufflated, but when it’s sold as MDMA people tend to take 100-200mg however they like to take MDMA. This is obviously a recipe for disaster. It’s pretty easy to become paranoid and enraged when you fear for your life, especially when you actually are about to die.
    Now, this kid had reportedly been a bit off for over a week. Again, easy recipe for disaster. Doesn’t matter if it’s α-PVP, methamphetamine, MDMA, or even plain old amphetamine, if you’re abusing stimulants and don’t sleep for a week, shit is going to get pretty weird. I’d argue the hallucinations associated with stimulant abuse are not caused by the drug at all, but by sleep deprivation. Additionally, people combining stimulants and alcohol may hallucinate for a couple of reasons – dehydration is a big one, and when the alcohol’s inhibitory effects fail to make you pass out because of the stimulant, users are essentially on autopilot. Therefore, I argue the effects of α-PVP that you list are not effects of the drug at all, but symptoms of its abuse and foolhardy combination of substances.
    The point I’m trying to make here is that drugs don’t turn people into face-eating zombies. Ignorance about drugs and their appropriate usage does that. Sensationalist articles and letters like yours are a part of the problem, because they create a situation where people EXPECT to become violent when their MDMA seems a bit off. This fear can spiral into psychosis, especially when the user is also drunk and has been awake for 4 days. You know how to prevent this from happening to you? Well, staying away from drugs is obviously the most politically correct answer, and perhaps the easiest, but there are others. TEST YOUR DRUGS. If you can’t afford a test kit, start with a much lower dose than you would normally take. Additionally, LOOK UP THE PROPER DOSAGE OF YOUR DRUGS. Read about what the chemical does. The beautiful thing is, for most of this information you don’t have to do jack shit but type “[drug name] erowid” into Google. It’s easy. Unfortunately, no community is better at shooting themselves in the foot than drug users as a whole. This is by design. Kids aren’t taught about drugs, draconian laws make chemists seek out novel drugs that act similarly to the illegal ones, and dumbass kids wind up ingesting a compound because some scientist reported it made their rats twitch.
    Look up FGCU’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy” and check out a meeting sometime. If this guy’s actions are the result of drug abuse, it is our responsibility as human beings to get to the core of these problems and address them in a way that actually does something – not just propaganda, emergency scheduling of novel compounds and analogues, and increased law enforcement. Those are the things that we know don’t work.