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What Is PCP?
Phencyclidine (PCP) is a Hallucinogen and Anesthetic that was originally used in the 1950s as a general Anesthetic during medical procedures for humans. It was also used as an animal Tranquilizer in veterinary medicine. People who were given PCP started to experience side effects such as severe anxiety, delusions, and agitation, so its use in humans was discontinued in the 1960s. Use in the veterinary world has become rare. The effects of PCP are extremely intense, and it is now classified as a Schedule II drug that some people use to get high.
PCP is sold as a tablet, powder, or capsule, and can be snorted, smoked, or injected. When the powder is added to water or alcohol, it quickly dissolves. The most popular way to consume PCP is by smoking it in a pipe or cigarette form. It is often added to Marijuana or other herbs like parsley, oregano, or mint and then smoked. This has earned it street names like Supergrass, Killer Weed, and Killer Joints. Users may dip normal cigarettes in a solution of PCP and smoke them to get high. Sometimes, poor-quality Marijuana is laced with PCP to make it appear as though the Marijuana is powerful, and users may unknowingly be smoking the dangerous drug.
When someone smokes PCP, they will feel the effects within 2 to 5 minutes and it will last up to 6 hours. When PCP is swallowed, users will feel effects in 30 to 60 minutes. Although the effects last 6 hours, it may take up to 24 hours to fully return to a normal state. The drug can appear to be white, brown, or yellow, but can also be dyed other colors, so there is no standard appearance. The most dangerous way to consume PCP is to inject its liquid form into the blood stream. This increases the probability of overdose and increases the risk for contracting HIV and AIDS. PCP is sometimes disguised as other drugs but has a strong chemical smell.
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How Is PCP Made?
PCP is manufactured in clandestine laboratories, which are labs that are used to create illicit drugs like Methamphetamine. The labs producing PCP are believed to be located primarily in the United States, specifically in Southern California, before it is distributed across the country. The drug is made up of dangerous chemicals, including cyanide, motor fuels, paint remover, and chemicals that are used to make plastics. When the drug is found in large amounts, it gives off the odor of ammonia. Pure PCP is uncommon, as drug dealers typically cut it with other substances to turn a higher profit. These added substances will often give it its yellow or brown color. When PCP is liquified, it is sometimes sold in vanilla extract bottles.
What Are The Effects Of PCP?
A typical dose of PCP is 5 to 10 milligrams, and the effects that a user feels depends on the amount of the drug that they consume. A smaller amount of PCP will produce effects such as euphoria, relaxation, and a rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. When taken in a larger dose, the drug does the opposite, reducing heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. More effects of PCP include:
- Anxiety, mood swings, and agitation
- Depersonalization and detachment from reality
- Difficultly concentrating
- Distorted sense of time and space
- Inability to feel pain and loss of sensation
- Loss of coordination and balance
- Numbness in the arms and legs
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
Users may also experience memory loss, nausea and vomiting, rigid muscles, and delusions. The physical signs that someone is high on PCP include impaired motor skills, rapid eye movements, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, a blank stare, drooling, aggression, and other bizarre behavior. Some believe that there is no harm in taking Hallucinogens and that it can actually be helpful for their psyche, but that is simply not the case, especially with dangerous and unregulated chemical drugs like PCP. Some users go on “runs,” which is binging on PCP for 2 to 3 days without sleeping or eating. Long-term use of PCP can lead to impaired memory and speech problems like being unable to articulate oneself, stuttering, or loss of speech altogether. Users may also experience severe anxiety, depression, social isolation, flashbacks, and toxic psychosis. Toxic psychosis is a psychosis that results from the effects of drugs or chemicals and is characterized by paranoia, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and aggressive or hostile behavior.
Someone experiencing an overdose from PCP may land them in a catatonic trance where they do not move, talk, or react. They may also display uncontrolled movements and convulsions. A PCP overdose can lead to coma, seizures, and death. Many of the deaths caused by PCP are not from an overdose, but from the violent or suicidal actions that PCP causes. People have been known to self-mutilate, jump from high places, commit suicide, get into car crashes, and even murder others while under the influence of PCP.
Violence And PCP
Some substances are known to make people have violent or suicidal outbursts, with PCP being one of the drugs that often comes to mind. Although these are real side effects, they are much more likely to occur in individuals who already have a history of violent or antisocial behaviors. Effects of the drug include grandiose delusions and the inability to feel pain, making people feel like they are invincible and can fight large groups of people or survive a high jump. A November 2019 news report from Kansas City reported a man high on PCP who had broken into a homeowner’s house and starting throwing items out of a second story window, before climbing out of the window and falling to the ground belly first. When police arrived, the suspect was running naked through the yard and trying to fight the homeowner to get back into the house. Police used a taser on the man 3 times with no avail, and additional officers had to be called to finally subdue the man.
A February 2020 case from Texas reported a man breaking into a woman’s car and simply sitting inside of it. When the woman told him to get out, the man lingered in her front yard before walking away. After she called police and they found him walking down the street, the man said, “Did I kill somebody?” and then went on to ask, “Is this real life?” The man had 3 warrants out for public intoxication and was found to be high on PCP. A famous case from 2016 details a man who crashed his car and then walked off. What happened next was caught on video, where the man beat a female police officer unconscious, and went on to fight off at least 10 other officers. He seemed to feel no pain from the fighting, and it took 12 officers to subdue him. He had PCP in his system at the time.
There are other violent criminals linked to PCP, such as the story of rapper Big Lurch who murdered a young woman and ate some of her lungs after tearing them from her chest. He was believed to be under the influence of PCP. Football player Aaron Hernandez was also believed to be a PCP user and became infamous for his paranoia and murders.
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People who abuse PCP are likely to be combining it with other drugs. In a study analyzing emergency department PCP-related visits, 7 out of 10 visits were in combination with other drugs. Half of the visits were combined with other illicit drugs, one third involved Marijuana, and one fifth involved Cocaine. Combining substances is a sign of addiction and abuse. Some may believe Hallucinogenic drugs are not addictive, but that is not the case for PCP. If a person discontinues use of PCP, they will experience withdrawal symptoms like depression, confusion, and craving.
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If someone you know is using PCP, they should seek treatment information as this drug has life-altering and potentially deadly effects.
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