Police in Bonne Terre, Missouri, report two new cases of people suspected of using the street drug flakka, a synthetic bath salt known to cause bizarre behavior and sometimes death. This time, police say, the men were brothers.
One of the brothers overdosed and caused a disturbance at an apartment in town on Saturday, Bonne Terre Police Chief Doug Calvert told the Daily Journal in Park Hills, Missouri.
Then, on Monday, “at the same apartment, his brother went berserk and tore up the apartment. Fortunately, someone was smart enough to open the door this time, so no one dove out of a window,” Calvert told the newspaper.
Law enforcement officials are “sounding the alarm” because they suspect both men were using flakka, KMOV in St. Louis reported.
Calvert said the second brother took off running from the apartment on Monday and was soon reported some distance away yelling and screaming. How he made it that far, “I don’t know, but apparently when they are on (flakka) they can run faster than a sprinter,” he told the Daily Journal.
When police caught up to him outside a liquor store he was “staring at the sky, yelling and screaming, and he was hollering and screaming at inanimate objects like poles, businesses and buildings,” Calvert told the newspaper.
“His hands were in the air and then he took a fighting stance with hands and clenched his fists. His eyes were bulging out of his head.”
In one of the most high-profile cases of flakka abuse in the state, four people went on a naked rampage in November 2017 through the town of Sullivan in eastern Missouri.
They barked and yelled and broke into buildings, stripping off their clothes in public and showered in soda water, police said.
“We had multiple incidents this past weekend of people on some kind of substance acting out of their minds,” Sullivan Police Lt. Patrick Johnson told the Sullivan Independent News at the time. “Barking like dogs, running up and down the street, or other farm animals, entering people’s homes, breaking into a business, yelling outside of local businesses.”
Police suspected the users had mixed methamphetamine with flakka, a drug reported in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and other parts of the country before it hit Missouri.
Though flakka is called a “bath salt,” it’s not the drugstore kind, such as Epsom salts, used for bathing which “have no mind-altering ingredients,” says the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which began spotlighting the drug as an “emerging trend” at least three years ago.
This manmade drug is a foul-smelling crystal that’s usually white or pink that “can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized in an e-cigarette or similar device,” the drug abuse institute says on its website.
“Vaporizing, which sends the drug very quickly into the bloodstream, may make it particularly easy to overdose..”
Flakka belongs to a family of drugs known as “synthetic cathinones” that “can be labeled as ‘bath salts,’ ‘plant food,’ ‘jewelry cleaner,’ or ‘phone screen cleaner,’” the institute says.
Some of them have brand names, including Bliss, Cloud Nine and Vanilla Sky, the institute says.
They concern public health officials because they are unregulated, cheap substitutes for meth and cocaine, and enter the market so quickly that it’s hard for law enforcement officials to “address their manufacture and sale,” the drug institute says.
George Mekhjian, an emergency department physician with SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles, told Fox 2 in St. Louis he thinks the flakka problem in Missouri is getting worse.
“They come yelling and screaming, and spitting, scratching, punching, hitting,” he said. “We have to restrain them physically and chemically. And when I say physically, they are so agitated that they act like what we call superhumans. It takes us like six to 10 adults to restrain the patient.”
Calvert told the Daily Journal that in nearly 30 years of law enforcement work he’s never seen anything like this.
He said the brother who had to be tased to be restrained on Monday was screaming prayers out loud.
“Whatever he was looking at, he thought we were some sort of dragons or monsters or something,” he told the newspaper.