Northern Ireland leads fight on new US drug craze Flakka
Scientists in Northern Ireland have provided US police with a powerful weapon in their battle against a mind-bending new designer drug sweeping Florida.
Randox Toxicology has developed a test for the detection of Flakka, dubbed '$5 Insanity' as it makes users feel superhuman and has led to a series of bizarre incidents in the state.
Extremely addictive and stronger than crystal meth, it can be injected, snorted, smoked, swallowed or taken with other substances like marijuana.
The effects of the drug includes extreme hallucinations, rage, delirium, paranoia, and a sharp rise in body temperature, which leads users to take off their clothes.
It has had a devastating impact in Florida with users experiencing psychosis-fuelled 'super-human' strength.
One naked man tried to kick in the door of Fort Lauderdale Police Department because he thought a mob was trying to kill him, and another, also naked, climbed the police station fence and became impaled on a spike, police said.
In another recent case a naked man ran through a neighbourhood convinced he was Thor
The drug is made from a chemical called -PVP, which is a type of bath salt, and is part of a group of drugs called synthetic cathinones which are rising in popularity due to their low cost, ease of purchase and potent side-effects. Now, scientists at Randox Toxicology have created the first test for Flakka.
A specialist research team has deconstructed the components of the drug and developed a simple urine test that can detect the presence of -PVP. The company hopes that the test will assist police services and doctors tackling the Flakka scourge.
Dr Joanne Darragh of Randox said: "Our key focus is to stay ahead of the producers, to develop tests for these dangerous drugs before they flood the market."
Dr Darragh's team has been working on the test for the past six months. From sample to results will take two hours. The team are also watching for the first signs of Flakka in Northern Ireland:
She said: "The majority of Flakka comes from China direct into the US and although we aren't aware of any cases in NI, that could of course change.
"Our scientists are working with international government bodies, leading clinicians and law enforcement agencies to monitor trends, study police cases and analyse market intelligence."