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PCP a very dangerous drug
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Just recently a Bakersfield, California newspaper reported that a wheelchair-bound father allegedly bit out one of the eyes of his small child and "similarly mutilating the other eye," leaving the child blind. The four year-old child was quoted as saying "my daddy ate my eyes." According to the investigation, the child's father had the drug "PCP" in his system at the time of the crime.

This story surely represents the extreme of what can happen when a person uses PCP, and it is, perhaps, an unfair representation of the drug's propensities. But the story certainly caught my attention, reminding me of my patrol officer days in Palo Alto when I had to restrain and arrest persons under the influence of PCP. I can remember arriving at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant where a PCP-crazed man was in the process of ripping sinks off of the wall, he smashed a plate glasss window and he was throwing tables and chairs around. Once the drug's effects wore off, the man was actually quite pleasant. Events like this, especially during the 1970s and early 1980s were common when PCP was more popular than it is now.

PCP is one of the street names for the drug Phencyclidine. It is also called "Angel Dust," "Rocket Fuel," "Embalming Fluid, "Zoom" and various other names. It is also relatively inexpensive and readily available, with Los Angeles being the major distribution source. PCP was developed in the 1950s as a legitimate intravenous anesthetic, but its pharmaceutical production was discontinued because of some highly undesirable adverse side effects. PCP is inexpensive to make, with one of its key ingredients being the deadly poison, cyanide.

PCP affects people in different ways. For repeat users, the effects may not be the same at all each time. Sometimes the users will feel energetic or a sense of euphoria. The drug is also known to induce violence, paranoia, panic, hallucinations and fear. Physically, the drug can produce unsafe elevations of blood pressure; it can cause vision distortions, nausea and decreased pain sensitivity.

Although I do not have statistical data to support the idea that PCP use is on the rise, police agencies around the country are apparently seeing signs of a resurgence of PCP manufacturing and use. This could possibly be due to the pressure that law enforcement has placed on methamphetamine ("crank," "meth") these past several years. If there really is a resurgence in PCP use, it seems to suggest that no matter what the government does, there will always be an appetite in this country for the use of mind-altering, reality-disassociation drugs.

In short, PCP is a dangerous drug, presenting many dangerous effects. Past experience, however, suggests that all of the harmful possibilities are not likely to dissuade a drug abuser from experimenting with it. Everyone seems to know the dangers of methamphetamine use; examples of its destructive properties are evident as an everyday feature in most all communities. Yet the number of meth users can be categorized as an epidemic. One need not look very hard to find a burned-out meth user walking or riding a bicycle along a city street, complete with missing teeth, sickly looking skin, emaciated and obviously without money. PCP presents these same problems and then some. Why should anyone think that merely pointing out the dangers of PCP use will change human behaviour? It is a rhetorical question for sure.

Leaving law enforcement in the primarily role to "control" the use of this drug is an unrealistic expectation. I see this issue, to the extent that it is an emerging threat to public safety and health, as a medical issue and as such, should be handled accordingly. Police personnel will do their jobs in enforcing laws that prohibit the use or manufacturing of PCP. It is critical that they do so, but it will not be enough to stem the problem. The best solution lies with society itself.