What is alpha-PVP?
Alpha-PVP is commonly called ‘flakka’ or ‘gravel’. It's a stimulant drug which is part of a family of substances known as synthetic cathinones. Synthetic cathinones include some common drugs we see in New Zealand such as eutylone or mephedrone. However, alpha-PVP been linked to many psychotic episodes, overdoses, and deaths overseas. (1)
Keep reading for more info on staying safer with alpha-PVP.
Alpha-PVP is usually found as small white or pink crystals and may have an unpleasant smell. Since other synthetic cathinones have been sold as MDMA in New Zealand, alpha-PVP might also show up in in pressed pills, which has happened in the UK. (2)
Alpha-PVP has many analogues (chemically similar drugs).
Know Your Stuff drug checking service recorded seeing alpha-PVP in 2016/17 and 2017/18 data. We (the NZ Drug Foundation) recently found alpha-PVP again in 2023, sold as MDMA.
How does alpha-PVP make you feel?
Alpha-PVP can have dangerous and unpleasant effects, even at low doses. Some known effects of alpha-PVP are:
- Heightened senses and awareness
- Feeling stimulated or energetic
- Sexual arousal
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Irregular heart rate
- Bizarre or violent behavior
- Delusions (3)(4)
Alpha-PVP overdoses have been recorded in many countries. Sometimes these have included people engaging in violent, erratic, or suicidal behavior that results in injury or death.
Many documented overdoses from alpha-PVP have happened when people are using other drugs at the same time. Effects of alpha-PVP when mixed with other drugs can be unpleasant and unpredictable.
Signs of an overdose from alpha-PVP include:
- Hyperthermia (high body temperature)
- Jerking muscle movements
- Extreme agitation or agitated delirium
- Kidney failure
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Chest pains and rapid heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
People experiencing these symptoms should call or have people around them call 111 immediately.
How much do you take a dose of alpha-PVP?
We've referred to Tripsit here for crowdsourced dosing info for alpha-PVP. However, Tripsit only provides dosing information for taking alpha-PVP orally (swallowing it). If you're using alpha-PVP a different way (like snorting), it could have stronger effects at lower doses.
There is no clear dose that can guarantee avoiding psychiatric and physiological distress. (5)
Keep in mind that different versions of the drug might require different dosages – so get your drugs checked, know what you have and do research for your specific substance before taking it.
How can you be safer if you're taking alpha-PVP?
If you're choosing to use alpha-PVP, there are things you can do to stay safer.
Alpha-PVP may be sold as MDMA or other drugs. The dosage for alpha-PVP is much lower than MDMA, meaning if you take it thinking it's MDMA, you could be in for an unpleasant or unexpected time.
That's why it's important to get your drugs checked, no matter what you're using.
Alpha-PVP is also not the same as other synthetic cathinones. Though they are in the same group of drugs, different synthetic cathinones have different effects, doses, and duration.
Here's how to be safer if you're taking alpha-PVP or equivalent drugs.
- Get your drugs checked to find out what they actually are. Drug checking is free, legal and confidential in Aotearoa. Find a drug checking clinic near you here.
- Start slow & use less. Alpha-PVP can have strong and unpleasant effects and it is best to start with a low dose and see how it affects you before using more. A common dose of alpha-PVP is about a quarter that of a common dose of MDMA, but your weight and metasbolism will affect your dosage too. Start with a very small amount and try to wait for an hour or more if you choose to re-dose.
- Wait an hour to feel the effects. We strongly suggest you don’t take more alpha-PVP after your first dose. You may feel a strong urge to take more. If you’re taking alpha-PVP at an event, you could try just bringing enough for one dose, and leaving the rest at home so you’re not tempted to take more. Our synthetic cathinones page has more info on managing cravings.
- Be with people you trust. Alpha-PVP may make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It can cause mental distress in some people. Being around people you trust means someone can help if something goes wrong.
- Know what to watch out for. ‘Overamping’ is overdosing on stimulants like alpha-PVP. Overamping can be uncomfortable and risky for your heart. Alpha-PVP has been linked to psychosis. If you or someone you’re with is having life-threatening symptoms like difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, loss of or severe changes in vision, tremors, seizures, loss of consciousness, signs of heart attack or stroke such as numbness or slurred speech; or is at risk of harming themselves or others, you or the people around you should act quickly. Call 111.
How can you find out if you have alpha-PVP?
You can check if you have alpha-PVP or equivalents by visiting a drug checking clinic. Drug checking is a free, legal and confidential way to find out what’s in your drugs. You will only need to provide a small sample for it to be checked, though if it’s a pill, it may need to be cut in half.
Alpha-PVP and analogues can also be checked using reagent tests at home, though this won’t work if your alpha-PVP is mixed with another substance like MDMA. We have an article that explains how to use reagent tests to check for MDMA. This chart shows colour changes to look for with some common reagent tests.
Source: European Project Response
1. Trista Haupt Wright, Chad Harris, Twenty-One Cases Involving Alpha-Pyrrolidinovalerophenone (α-PVP), Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 40, Issue 5, June 2016, Pages 396–402, https://doi.org/10.1093/jat/bkw029
2. UK, R. T. (2019, January 19). UPS ecstasy pills with high doses of dangerous “alpha-PVP” hospitalise three people. Retrieved from Reagent Tests UK: https://www.reagent-tests.uk/blog/ups-ecstasy-pills-with-high-doses-of-dangerous-alpha-pvp-hospitalise-3-people/
3. "Drugs of Abuse Emerging Trends". National Institute on Drug Abuse. 6 April 2015.
4. Beck O, Franzén L, Bäckberg M, Signell P, Helander A. Toxicity evaluation of α-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (α-PVP): results from intoxication cases within the STRIDA project. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2016 Aug;54(7):568-75. doi: 10.1080/15563650.2016.1190979. PMID: 27412885.
5. Patocka, J., Zhao, B., Wu, W., Klimova, B., Valis, M., Nepovimova, E., & Kuca, K. (2020). Flakka: New Dangerous Synthetic Cathinone on the Drug Scene. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(21), 8185. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21218185
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