PCP

COMMON NAMES: amoeba angel dust, angel hair, animal tranquilizer, `CJ, Cadillac, crystal, crystal joints, cyclones, DOA ( on arrival), dust, elephant tranquilizer, goon, hog, horse tranquilizer, K1, killer weed (when combined with cannabis). mist, peace pill, pig tranquilizer, rocket fuel, scuf fle, sheets, snorts, soma, supergrass, superweed, surfer, synthetic marijuana, weed

Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, is one of the most unpredictable of all' street drugs. It is unpredictable because it is often falsely represented on the street as THC, mescaline, psilocybin, 'or LSD. Even more chancy is the drug's effect, ranging' from an exhilarating, tingly high to an unpleasant, disconcerting bout with delirium.

PCP may now represent up to 25 percent of all "psychedelic" drug abuse, although technically it is not a psychedelic at all. Since PCP causes dizzyingly different effects at varying dosages, it cannot be placed with accuracy in any standard drug category. Most experts call it a tranquilizer-anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties, although it is chemically unrelated to LSD or mescaline. To most people it is simply a dangerous, substance, with high bummer and overdose potential, even when used by knowledgeable druggies.

PCP comes in many forms, but is impossible to identify with the human eye. Produced as a white, crystalline powder, it can be combined with other drugs, often LSD, in gelatin capsules, or sprinkled on any smokable substance, such as tobacco, marijuana, parsley, or mint leaves, to create a powerful high.

One gram of PCP' can "doctor" more than a hundred joints, depending on the degree of potency desired. PCP emits a distinctly chemical odor when smoked.

Bio-Ceutic Laboratories, sole legal distributor of the drug, markets it for use as a veterinary anesthetic, under the name Sernylan, Parke, Davis & Co., the original manufacturer, first synthesized it in 1957. Although it was tested on humans for several years, its side effects made it unsuitable for therapeutic purposes. Mass marketing as a recreational mind expander has been left to street merchants, who sell it as "pure THC" to unsuspecting buyers, taking in a whopping $12,000 to $14,000 per pound.

What PCP does depends on several variables, some which the user can control, others no more controllable or predictable than a roulette wheel. Although the drug's method of action is still unclear, we do know that it acts on the sensory cortex, thalamus, and midbrain in such a manner as to "scramble' internal stimuli, thereby impairing perceptual functions. Effects on the body and mind depend upon the user's psychopathology, dosage, method of ingestion; and the circumstances under which the drug is taken, including physical setting, immediate feelings, and the presence of other people. Dosage is the most important and least controllable factor in determining PCP's effect, particularly since most users take it under the mistaken belief they are ingesting some other substance.

PCP can produce a one- to six-hour trip. Low dosage (5 mg car less), ingested orally by tablet, capsule, or smoking, results in a state of physical sedation, characterized by general numb ness of the face, arms, hands, legs, and feet. The cardiovascular system shows a rise in blood pressure and heart rate: Users may experience euphoria, alcohol-like intoxication with loss of muscular coordination, double or blurred vision, blank staring, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting. While breathing rate increases, respiration remains shallow. The user feels flushed, sweats profusely, and undergoes mild arterial relaxation. Hallucinations can occur.

Subjective psychological effects progress through three stages. First, the user experiences a reaction to changes in body image, or the sense of getting smaller and smaller, ac companied by - feelings of depersonalization, weightlessness, and out-of-body experiences. He may alternate delight with panic while in a non communicative state of oblivion and fantasy.

The next stage is one of perceptual distortion, including possible visual or auditory hallucinations and an inability to judge space and time accurately. Feelings such as gravitational pulls and levitation maybe experienced. At this point, the user often becomes excessively talkative.

The third stage may be evidenced by varying levels of apathy, indifference, alienation, estrangement, and emotional or social isolation. As the high diminishes, the user can suffer depression and paranoia. During this final stage, feelings of emptiness and despair often develop into a preoccupation with imminent death.

The experience, not unlike the effects of sensory deprivation, may cause difficulties in thinking and concentration and impairment of sensory input organization. Learning and memory functions can be disturbed, and the user often feels drowsy. Even low doses of PCP can cause intensification and aggravation of pre-existing overt or latent psychotic tendencies. This effect has been so . pronounced that medical researchers have concluded that exaggeration of present psychoses is more intense under PCP than under any other tested drug, including LSD and mescaline. Therefore, psychotics should definitely avoid use of PCP.

It takes PCP users about twenty-four hours to return to a normal state after tripping. Although the drug's effects are difficult to describe, users claim that these are quite different from those produced by other drugs. For first-time or unaware users, the PCP experience can be somewhat scary and unpleasant.

Moderate doses (5-10 mg) cause decreased blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. Physical disturbances may include nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, rolling eye `movements, shivering, increased salivation, repetitive movements, watering of the eyes, loss of balance, dizziness, and muscular rigidity.

Low doses cause the arms. and legs to become numb. With larger doses, limbs may not budge at all. Moderate doses of PCP will produce analgesic (painkilling) and anesthetic (sleep inducing) results. Psychological effects are the same as those caused by low doses, but misperceptions and negative feelings are magnified. The user may experience some loss of contact with his environment.

When high doses (over 10 mg) of PCP are ingested, the drug ceases to resemble any other medically used anesthetic. A state of agitation can occur; sometimes accompanied by convulsions or seizures resulting in coma for as long as twelve hours. Symptom of schizophrenia, such as delusions and mental confusion, may surface, requiring prompt, professional medical attention. Attempted suicides have been attributed to use of this drug.

Long-term PCP effects are not entirely certain, but present indications are not reassuring. Researchers have documented flashbacks, prolonged anxiety, and severe depression. Ex tended use may result in physical addiction. Chronic heavy users, even while temporarily drug free, complain of feeling crazy and disoriented, and have difficulty coping with normal life stresses.

PCP has a bad-trip rate five times greater than any other psychedelic This high proportion of bummers may, however, result because the uninformed user, having experienced no stronger psychedelics, expects no more than a pleasant, mellow, but enhanced marijuana-like high. Instead, he finds his body deadened and his mind becomes a maze of fear and pain.

Those on a bum trip should be placed in a cozy, safe environment, protected from self-harm, An attempt should be made to explain, as quietly, calmly, and simply` as possible, the cause of the . problem. Reduce verbal and visual stimulation to relieve anxiety, which is often death-related and can be very frightening. Extreme states of excitation, caused by high doses, can be medically controlled by chlorpromazine and phenobarbital. Administration of such drugs should be handled only by professionals, however, as they can result in extreme depression and possible respiratory arrest.

If respiration becomes labored, or heavy vomiting occurs, rush the user to a hospital, where respiratory-support equip ment and necessary medical care are available. Watch for preconvulsant signs, such as jerking movements. Generally, the user will show wildly-delusional behavior before convulsing. This is no time to go rummaging through the medicine cabinet for common tranquilizers or sedatives. The comatose or convulsive person should be taken to a hospital for treatment immediately. Effective anti-overdose medication and dosage require skilled, professional knowledge, and their effects on the user must be closely monitored.

To minimize the possibility of overdose, large amounts of PCP should be avoided. It should never be used in combination with other drugs, particularly alcohol; barbiturates, heroin, or other depressants. Since the drug is mentally and physically incapacitating,, driving a car or operating dangerous machinery should be ruled out.

In the United States, PCP is considered a controlled dangerous substance under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Possession is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, or a maximum $5,000 fine. Illicit manufacture and sale can bring first offenders a five-year term and a fine as high as $15,000. Subsequent convictions may result in even greater penalties.

There are many similar chemical analogs of PCP that can be easily synthesized. It seems inevitable-,that some will appear on the street market, Effects of these new compounds cannot be predicted, but caution should be exercised.

With all the dangers of PCP catalogued and documented why do people still use it for "fun"? Some just know nothing about it, some do not believe it to be dangerous in small quantities, and others mistakenly believe their PCP to be another mind-altering drug, usually LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, or, most commonly, THC. Since "'pure" THC is about as rare as snow in the Sahara, hungry druggies leap at the chance to plunk down their cash for- the "golden" powder. Unfortunately, the gold sometimes turns -out to be tarnished metal :since the user has often purchased a potentially un pleasant or dangerous dose of PCP. Buyer beware!