Why Has There Been A Sharp Increase In PCP Use?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) produces regular reports based on population groupings that track drug use trends in the United States. In a recent Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, SAMHSA provided evidence of a sharp spike in PCP use.
Forms Of PCP
Phencyclidine, otherwise known as PCP or angel dust, is found in various forms, including crystal, capsule, tablet, powder and liquid. It’s often found in the form of marijuana and/or tobacco joint dipped in liquid PCP called a Sherm, which is named for Nat Sherman cigarettes. PCP first emerged in major U.S. cities in 1967, and by 1978 it was called the country’s number one drug problem on 60 Minutes.
PCP’s Recent Sharp Rise In Use
Its popularity had dropped significantly throughout the 80s and 90s until, according to SAMHSA, PCP-related emergency room visits rose 400 percent between 2005 and 2011, and actually doubled from 2009 to 2011, from 36,719 to 75,538.
Dangerous Effects Of PCP
The hallucinogen is considered to be exceptionally dangerous because users can become extremely violent. Users report feeling detached from their surroundings, with dangerous side effects including seizures, irregular breathing and comas. PCP is also addictive and can result in high levels of anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The most significant increase by age was demonstrated among adults aged 25 to 34, with a 518 percent increase from 3,643 visits to 14,175. In 2011 males comprised 69 percent of the 75,538 ER room visits and 45 percent of the visits were by adults between the ages of 25 to 34. PCP was combined with other drugs 72 percent of the time: with one other substance in 37 percent of ER visits, two other substances in 18 percent and 3 or more substances another 18 percent.
Public Education Needed On PCP’s Dangers
The study authors explained PCP’s resurgence using the term “generational forgetting,” meaning that what once was widely recognized as a dangerous drug is now resurging due to an uneducated public.
The authors recommend targeting 25- to 34-year-olds for education and prevention efforts, including tobacco and marijuana awareness due to the possibility of cigarettes and joints being laced with PCP.
The findings of SAMHSA reports are used by many groups: policymakers access the reports to ensure that adequate substance abuse treatment facilities serve their communities; law enforcement personnel can use the data to determine where their efforts need to be focused and learn which substances may be most dangerous in their area of service; the findings are also used in clinical settings to develop useful screening tools for patients in order to detect the use of other substances or the presence of additional mental health concerns.
There may also be a need for increased training efforts among emergency department personnel related to recognize the signs and symptoms of PCP use and the recommendations for treatment.
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