A dangerous synthetic street drug dubbed flakka has started gaining traction in New York state. The drug is reportedly related to the so-called "bath salts" drug and produces a high similar to that of cocaine, but has the potential to be more dangerous, the Epoch Times reported Thursday.  

“This is poison. No different than taking rat poison,” said James Hunt, special agent in charge of the New York field office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, WPIX-TV reported.  

Alpha PVP, or flakka, contains a chemical that is a close cousin to a key ingredient in bath salts, which the U.S. banned in 2012, and comes in similar whitish crystal chunks. It can be smoked, snorted, injected or eaten and can cause violent behavior, spikes in body temperature and paranoia. It is known to give people a feeling of super-human strength, and although a flakka high typically lasts one to several hours, the neurological damage can be long-lasting. The drug can also potentially take a toll on the kidneys. 

“It’s so difficult to control the exact dose [of flakka],” Jim Hall, a drug abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, previously told CNN. “Just a little bit of difference in how much is consumed can be the difference between getting high and dying. It’s that critical.”

RTX1FWY1 Alpha-PVP, a powerful stimulant nicknamed flakka, is shown after being seized by Broward County, Florida, police in this image released May 28, 2015. Photo: Reuters

Flakka is manufactured in China and India and can be bought online for as little as $3 to $5, making it an attractive alternative to cocaine. Dealers often target young and poor people, CNN previously reported, and try to recruit homeless people to buy and sell the drug.  

The drug became increasingly popular in Florida earlier this year, but has since spread to upstate New York and New York City. Hospitals in New York City are reportedly admitting 150 patients a week, and emergency room visits have increased tenfold since last year, WPIX-TV reported.

“We’ve got a big drug problem in New Jersey and we want to exclude [flakka] for them,” said New Jersey state Assemblyman Tim Eustace of Bergen County, who introduced a bill last summer in Trenton to make the laws open-ended, WPIX-TV  reported. “As quick as we make the laws, the chemists can make new versions of the drug.” 

Flakka is illegal federally, but in an effort to limit its supply, law enforcement is pushing to get the chemicals banned in China.