Broward leaders joined together to address community during recent No Flakka Forum at Dillard High School
Experts representing healthcare, government, law enforcement, the judiciary, and substance abuse agencies, joined with local residents to present a united front to help stem the tide of drug use of the synthetic drug commonly referred to as “Flakka”in Broward County which leads the nation in overdose deaths attributed its drug usage. Photo by Septembra Leseane
By Charles Moseley
Broward County law enforcement, healthcare officials, as well as the county’s judicial system have seen more than its share of cases involving illicit drug activity over the years, but nothing can compare with the latest in a line of so-called designer drugs commonly referred to on the streets as “Flakka,” which has left local officials wondering how to stem the rapidly growing tidal wave of death and devastation in its wake as it sweeps throughout Broward
On Oct. 24, 2015, Dillard High School located in north-west Fort Lauderdale, played host to a “No Flakka Forum,” and invited the local community which has been most affected by the outbreak of flakka, to participate in a panel discussion amongst a cadre of experts to examine the most important issue in the battle against illegal drugs in years.
The forum was co-sponsored by the T.J. Reddick Bar Association, Urban League of Broward County’s Young Professionals Network, and the Dillard High School Student Government Association.
Dillard High School Principal Cassandra D. Robinson set the tone for the event by sharing a recent incident involving the use of flakka, which hit very close to home, as she revealed that everyone has been affected either directly or indirectly by flakka, whether they were aware of it or not.
Robinson went on to describe what had occurred on the school’s property and why she felt it necessary to have such an event at Dillard High School.
“Last week I got a call on Sunday evening from someone saying that there had been an accident. Someone ran into an entrance at the school along Northwest 27th Avenue, because they were on flakka.
“Don’t take this event any-where but Dillard High School because it affects our community, the Dillard community, the 33311 community. We know how important this is that we have to have a strategic plan in place to address this pressing issue,” Robinson added.
No Flakka Forum moderator Attorney Josiah Graham spear-headed the idea to hold the event after a close encounter with someone high on flakka. He re-called an incident which occur-red several weeks ago when a man high off flakka covered with blood approached his vehicle and punched his windshield.
“At that point I decided to do something about it. I approached the Urban League of Bro-ward and the T.J. Reddick Bar Association to figure out how they could address this issue that is destroying our city. We’re here today because of a drug which is affecting our com-munity. Broward County leads the nation in flakka deaths.
“Within the last 12 months alone 40 people have been killed because of flakka. That’s a tragedy. People want to know why? They want to know how can we stop it? And frankly, what BSO is doing about it? What is the State Attorney’s office doing about it? And what are our elected officials doing a-bout it?”
A panel of experts consisting of the respective parties aforementioned included; Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, Judge Sharon Zeller, Judge Elijah Williams, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, Broward Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ozzie Tianga, Broward Health President/CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, and Lawrece O’Neal with the Florida House Experience Drug Abuse Agency.
This recent phenomenon has local agencies scratching their heads as they wrestle with the growing number of people which have begun choosing flakka as their drug of choice here in Broward.
Recent updated statistics released by local healthcare officials reveal that an estimated 50 drug overdoses resulting in death due to the ingestion of flakka during a 12 month period; anointing Broward Coun-ty with the dubious distinction of the flakka capital of the United States.
Beginning with the wide-spread use of powder cocaine in the 1970’s and 1980’s, to the introduction of crack cocaine in subsequent years, and more recently the illegal use of narcotics such as Oxycontin, followed by the latest in a series of so-called designer drugs including; ecstasy, molly’s, none have had such a devastating impact than flakka, according to local authorities.
Flakka is a designer drug that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed. It may also be combined with other, softer drugs such as marijuana.
Flakka is most typically made from the chemical alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic version of the amphetamine-like stimulant cathinone. Cathinones are chemicals derived from the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia, where the leaves are frequently chewed for a euphoric buzz.
It’s the same class of chemical that’s used to make so-called bath salts, a drug that was found to be behind a number of alarming incidents, including the case of a man in Miami who allegedly chewed another man’s face while high on bath salts in 2012.
The immediate and long-term effects of cathinones can rival some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine.
Although every panelist who participated in the discussion had their own particular insight into the flakka phenomenon, none were as well versed with the subject than BSO Lt. Ozzie Tianga, who has participated in over 400 forums on the subject. Lt. Tiango has been on the front line when it comes to combating the ills of flakka usage on the streets of Broward County. Lt. Tianga provided a very informative overview on all the elements involving the use of flakka including its physical as well as psychological effects and its tremendous impact on the community here in Broward.
According to Tianga some of the side effects which can occur after the use of flakka include; elevated levels, elevated temperatures, excited delirium, and ultimately death from overdose.
State Attorney Michael Satz provided some insight on the scourge that the sale of flakka has had in the community and the tremendous pain and suffering that it has inflicted on victims who have fallen into a trap of addiction to the drug.
“It’s not just a drug it’s poison which has killed 50 people by people making money off of this poison!”
Ryan Jones, a 27-year-old native of Pompano Beach and former standout football player on the Blanche Ely football team, braved public scrutiny, as his battle as a flakka addict was exposed before an estimated audience of 400 people, including his supportive family members.
When asked by the moderator when he last used flakka he said he used it every day including the morning of the No Flakka Forum.
“Yes I did it this morning. In the neighborhood where I live it’s infested with drugs.”
Jones’ courageous battle took on a whole new meaning when he offered the following insight with respect to anyone in the audience who might be contemplating experimenting with the highly addictive drug. “One is too many and a thousand is not enough,” said a beleaguered Jones.