Safer Using – Alpha-PVP

About α-PVP or “Flakka”

α-PVP (pronounced alpha-PVP, short for alpha-PyrrolidinoValeroPhenone, also known as flakka, gravel, grind, the zombie drug, or alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone) is a new, synthetic stimulant belonging to a class of drugs called cathinones. Novel synthetic drugs like α-PVP are sometimes referred to as “research chemicals” (RCs) or “designer drugs”. These drugs often have very little research into their safety and effects on humans, which is the case for α-PVP.

α-PVP was first patented in 1963, but never reached the market as a medicine.1,2 It first began appearing on the drug market in the early 2010s, with reports of its use as early as 2011.1,2 α-PVP has increased in prevalence over the past decade, and, in recent years, has been associated with more than 100 hospitalisations and deaths in Europe and elsewhere.2 Due to risk of heart attack and stroke, people with pre-existing heart conditions should avoid α-PVP altogether.

α-PVP is most often sold as a white crystalline powder and is commonly snorted, but can also be injected or consumed orally.2 α-PVP has been found in samples incorrectly sold as MDMA in Europe.2 If you suspect your MDMA may be adulterated or contain a different drug entirely, consider taking a small sample to a drug checking service such as CanTEST, or by using a DIY test kit at home (e.g., https://dancesafe.org/product/mdma-testing-kit/).

α-PVP Effects

α-PVP is described as having cocaine-like stimulant effects.3 Studies using rats and monkeys have demonstrated that α-PVP is a more potent stimulant than cocaine and amphetamine.2,3

The effects of α-PVP may vary from person to person, but can include:1,2

  • Stimulation.
  • Increased sex drive.
  • Euphoria.
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia).
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Suppressed appetite.
  • Insomnia.
  • Aggression.
  • Anxiety.

The effects of α-PVP typically begin 5 to 15 minutes after dosing and can possibly last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 or more hours.2,4

α-PVP Dosing

Since the potency of α-PVP has not been widely reported, it is important to start with a low dose and wait before redosing (start low and go slow). Additionally, the potency of a given dose can vary from person to person. Rather than starting with a large dose, one can reduce the risk of an accidental overdose by taking a smaller dose and working up to the desired effects/intensity.

The following is a rough dosage guide for oral α-PVP:4

LOW DOSE – 5-10 mg

MODERATE DOSE – 10-25 mg

STRONG DOSE – 25-50 mg

HEAVY, POSSIBLE OVERDOSE – 50+ mg

α-PVP may be more potent (that is, require a smaller dose) when snorted compared to when consumed orally, and may be even more potent when injected.

α-PVP Overdose and Toxicity

The symptoms of an α-PVP overdose can include:2,3,5

  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia).
  • Dilated pupils (mydriasis).
  • Hallucinations.
  • Agitation, aggression, violence.
  • Anxiety, panic.
  • Muscle twitches, tremors, or stiffness.
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Sweating.
  • Increased body temperature (hyperthermia).
  • Restlessness.
  • Chest pain.
  • Convulsions, seizures.
  • Numbness.
  • Disorientation.
  • Confusion.
  • Muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis).
  • Paranoia.

If someone is experiencing the symptoms of an α-PVP overdose or is concerned, seek medical attention, and wait with them until they recover.

Stimulant overdose and binges lasting multiple days can lead to a state known as “excited delirium” where the dopamine system in the brain becomes dysregulated.5 Excited delirium due to stimulant overdose has been attributed to multiple deaths, with dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia) and heart failure being the main complications.5 According to a 2015 report, α-PVP was reported to be the cause of 23 deaths in Europe, and was associated with another 83 deaths and numerous hospitalisations, including an emergency admission for an α-PVP-induced stroke.2,6 α-PVP was linked to one death in Australia, with the cause of death being a heart attack.7

In general, mixing drugs increases the risk of complications and overdose. Mixing α-PVP with:1

  • other stimulants, DXM or 25x-NBOMes may increase the risk of overdose and put excessive strain on the heart,
  • MDMA may increase the risk of neurotoxicity and put excessive strain on the heart,
  • alcohol can counteract the effect of α-PVP and cause someone to drink too much or overdose on α-PVP,
  • tramadol may increase the risk of seizures,
  • other drugs (including pharmaceutical medications) may have unpredictable and possibly dangerous effects.

A study using human cells showed that α-PVP may be toxic to muscle cells.3 The effects and toxicity of long-term α-PVP use have not been studied in humans, however studies in rats may suggest repeated high doses α-PVP use may lead to neurotoxicity.3 A group of researchers in Iran injected rats with different doses of α-PVP repeatedly for ten days. They found that rats exposed to high doses of α-PVP (20 mg α-PVP per kg of body weight) showed impairments in learning and memory after the ten days.8 They found that the brains of the rats were no longer able to utilise energy properly, likely causing these cognitive impairments.8 However, the researchers didn’t investigate whether the neurotoxicity was permanent or reversible after stopping α-PVP use.8

References

[1] https://psychonautwiki.org/wiki/A-PVP

[2] https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/joint-reports/alpha-pvp_en

[3] https://doi.org/10.3390%2Fijms21218185

[4] https://tripsit.me/factsheets/a-pvp

[5] http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00435

[6] https://doi.org/10.1159/000512811

[7] https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/flakka-dealers-fail-in-bid-to-claim-drug-legal-ng-b88393542z

[8] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.taap.2023.116497

Written by Darcy Lynch

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