JUST SAY NO: PCP, Enabling Naked Handcuffed Maniacs To Kick Out The Back Windows Of Police Cars Since 1970


BY JEFF DEENEY FOR THE FIX Camden, New Jersey mother, high on drugs on a late summer night last August, decapitates her own son in a fit of violent psychosis, places his head in the kitchen freezer, calls 911, admits the crime to a dispatcher, and then stabs herself to death before police arrive on the scene. Across town just days later a father, also in a drug-fueled psychosis, steals into his daughters’ bedroom as they sleep and slits both their throats with a knife, killing one and critically injuring the other. The horrific, gory details are splashed across the front pages of tabloids nationwide. The uninitiated may assume that 34-year-old Chevonne Thomas and 31-year-old Osvaldo Rivera were high on so-called bath salts when they took their children’s lives. The synthetic meth analog got major bad press last year as the new monster-making killer drug epidemic. But in the big East Coast cities from Boston to Washington, DC, bath salts have barely registered as a blip on the street drug scene. Users here that want a wild drug ride turn to the old standby PCP, despite its reputation for triggering schizophrenia-like states that lead to bizarre episodes of violence. Phencyclidine (scientific name) is a dissociative anesthetic that shuts off certain brain chemicals producing a detachment from reality and states of mind as extreme as mania, delirium and psychosis. It is the most dangerous hallucinogen, never approved for medical use in humans because of its extraordinary side effects. On the street PCP is sold as an oily, liquid base called “wet,” in which either tea or mint leaves or tobacco cigarettes (“dippers”) are soaked and then dried and smoked. While the war against PCP that raged in the ‘70s—when the drug was briefly almost as popular as pot among suburban high-schoolers—has been won, the drug has persisted in the inner-city drug market, typically densely distributed in poor, violent neighborhoods. It remains a niche drug, appealing to a small base of dedicated users, but its unpredictable effects, which often send wet smokers to jail or psych units, pose outsized health, social and economic costs. MORE