Even before the war on drugs began in the early 1970s, the same cycle has played out countless times. A new synthetic drug appears and gains popularity among drug users. This leads to increased visibility and notoriety among the wider public, often due to a dramatic news story.
The report of a Florida man biting off part of a teenager’s face in 2014, for example, was linked to “bath salts,” a synthetic drug of the cathionine class. Ultimately, however, no trace of the substance was found in the attacker’s system. Last year in Florida, another face-biting attack was linked by the press to flakka, or "gravel," a similar drug to bath salts. Other stories from around the United States have also linked flakka to violent crime and murder.