In Drugs & Addictions

The Dangers of Angel Dust

angel dust

Some people think drugs are fun. They say a little of this helps me relax, helps me have fun or makes me more sociable. Are all drugs bad always? Perhaps not everything is white and black. But with Angel Dust, there are no gray areas. It causes insanity, homicidal behavior and suicide. Maybe it starts out with a little bit of fun, but it ends with horror. Furthermore, it is a very sneaky drug, often existing in unexpected places and accidentally ingested.

What is Angel Dust?

Angel Dust, also known as PCP, is a dissociative hallucinogen listed as a schedule II drug by the United States Drug Enforcement agency. After a dangerous burst of abuse in the 1970s, it faded from the scene. It is making a comeback.

Phencyclidine was first synthesized in 1926. In the 1950s, Parke, Davis and Company marketed it under the name Sernyl for use as a general anesthetic. It was discontinued by 1965 because of its side effects. Patients experienced hallucinations, delusions, anxiety and depression while recovering. The drug continued to see use as a veterinary anesthetic.

Angel Dust’s Peak

Known as “The PeaCe Pill”, Angel Dust leaked from veterinary practices onto the street in the 1970s, becoming a major force in the psychedelic era. Artists and musicians made the drug look like the right thing to do. Commonly, it was snorted or smoked.

Users experienced:

  • euphoria
  • relaxation
  • dissociation from reality
  • distorted sense of time and space
  • out-of-body sensations

The trip was often accompanied by difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychological dependance.

How do you Make Angel Dust?

Although it sounds complex, Angel Dust is relatively easy for a street pharmacist to synthesize. The process begins with piperidine, a common pharmaceutical building block. Piperidine is combined with cyclohexanone and cyanide to make piperidinocyclohexanecarbonitrile. It is then reacted with phenylmagnesium bromide to make PCP.

The result is a white crystalline powder easily dissolved into water or alcohol. The taste is bitter and metallic. It can be mixed with a dye. It can be found on the black market in the form of tablets, capsules, colored powders or liquids.

Analysis of PCP samples have shown purity can vary wildly. 20% have been found to have significant traces of PCC, which is more toxic than PCP and releases cyanide.

What are its Street Names?

Classic pseudonyms for phencyclidine include:

  • Angel Dust
  • PCP
  • Hog
  • Ozone
  • Embalming Fluid
  • Rocket Fuel

Actor Sherman Hemsley allegedly abused the drug, giving it another alias: “Sherm”.

How do you Use PCP?

PCP can be snorted in its powdered form. Users can heat the powder on foil and inhale the resulting fumes. In liquid form, it can be injected, opening up all the potential dangers of shared intravenous needles. Tablets or capsules can be swallowed.

Because of its easy solubility, PCP can be dissolved into any beverage for consensual or non-consensual ingestion. This made it a popular date rape drug long before the roofie.

Another difficult to detect application is to add liquid PCP to something smokable.

“Do you want to get wet?”

Angel dust is making a comeback in the form of liquid PCP mixed with marijuana. The mixture is commonly known as Super Grass, Killer Joints, Fry, Lovelies, Wets, Waters and many other things. The nature of the drug business requires pushers to constantly evolve lingo to avoid the attention of parents and police.

“Wet weed” is dangerous because the user can be unaware the marijuana is tainted, making the pot an unintended stepping-stone drug. Typically, leaves are soaked in liquid PCP and then rolled or a joint is dipped into a PCP solution. The weed is said to have been treated with “embalming fluid” giving the impression formaldehyde is involved while truly a dangerous dissociative hallucinogenic has been introduced instead.

Beware of anything said to be “wet”, “dipped” or “dusted”.

In small doses, the drug causes profuse sweating, shallow breathing, numbness and loss of coordination. Users get drowsy and dream. Reality and fantasy become confused.

At higher doses, PCP causes powerful hallucinations, seizures and coma. Angel Dust effects can include vomiting, blurred vision, uncontrolled flicking of the eyes, drooling and dizziness.

Long term abuse can lead to psychological symptoms similar to schizophrenia. Users may feel a great distance between themselves and their environment. Paranoia and disordered thinking are common. Speech can be completely incoherent.

Death is a real possibility, but comes more likely from aggressive or suicidal behavior while high. Professional treatment is the only way to survive severe PCP abuse.

A Spike in Hospitalizations

The Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that PCP related emergency room trips have increased 400% between 2005 and 2011. The largest growth was in men aged 25 to 34. Between 1995 and 2002, the number only increased by 28%.

The visits to the emergency room were related to irregular breathing, seizures, coma, paranoia and delusions caused by Angel Dust. Sometimes the patients admitted themselves when in crisis. Other times law enforcement was involved when the patients were agitated or violent.

Catastrophic Side Effects

The euphoria caused by small doses of Angel Dust expands to distorted sensations, detachment and disorientation. Hallucination plus out-of-body experience can lead to hostile behavior and suicidal activity.

Extended use can result in psychological addiction. The user only feels happy under the soothing gauze of PCP. Life without it is depressing, confusing, gray and undesired. Cravings can lead people to do nearly anything for the drug. Brain damage caused by Angel Dust involves loss of concentration, memory loss, weight loss and difficulty with speech.

Angel Dust can also give the user immunity to pain and delusions of super-human strength. Abundant are stories about PCP users absorbing mountains of punishment while being wrestled down by a dozen police.

This drug’s combination of hallucinogenic and anesthetic properties have led to truly horrific results.

The Man Without a Face

Former Commander of Bronx Homicide Vernon J Geberth retells a tale from his book Practical Homicide Investigation. A man named “Michael” was high on PCP at a woman’s apartment. He took off his clothes and began talking nonsense. The woman and a neighbor helped Michael back to his apartment, where he took more of the drug.

He smashed his mirror and used pieces of it to carve off his own face, which he fed to his dogs. He also gouged out one of his eyes and irreparably damaged the other. Police investigated, recovering prints from the mirror that matched Michael’s and his own flesh from the stomachs of his dogs.

Initially Michael told emergency medical technicians “the dogs did it” but later said: “I did it myself. It’s an offering to Big Bird.”

Michael survived despite his horrible self-mutilation. The anesthetizing affects of Angel Dust prevented shock and diminished bleeding. His mind was never the same and he became a Ward of the State. His face, however, was rebuilt.

Surgeons flipped his pectoral muscles over his skull, leaving the blood supply in tact. Eventually, the muscles grew a new blood supply and surgeons crafted a new face from the muscles once on his chest.

The Rapper and his Genitals

Wu Tang member Andre Johnson, who performs as “Christ Bearer”, was in his second floor apartment using PCP when he decided to cut off the tip of his own penis, slowly. Then he removed the rest of his genitalia, bit by bit, before standing on his window-ledge.

Police arrived and encouraged him to come down from the ledge. “OK,” he said before jumping. In critical condition, he was taken to the hospital. His parts were recovered but reattachment was unsuccessful.

According to CNN, Johnson “was in complete control. I cut it off because that was the root of all my problems.” He did what he did after realizing that “sex is for mortals, and I am a god.”

Numerous horror stories exist, many not involving the user damaging only himself. Boingboing.net shared a story about a Bakersfield, California, PCP user who ate the eyeballs of his own son before attempting to chop off his own legs with an axe. They boy’s mother, also a user, arrived with a pizza in the middle of the attack, but left instead. The blogger Xeni Jardin was left to ponder whether Angel Dust turns people into monsters or is rather the drug of choice for monsters.

To find other stuff of nightmares, including images you’ll not un-see, just search the web.

How do I know if a Friend is on Angel Dust?

Keep watch for huge swings in mood, particularly violence followed by withdrawal. Look for rapid twitching of the eyes and increased sweating. Grimacing facial expressions and flushing may occur. Your friend may experience trouble speaking or paying attention. Extreme doses may leave your friend paralyzed, anesthetized and staring.

Your friend, whether on the drug willingly or not, may be dangerous. Act with love, but get help. Take nothing personally as your friend is not acting like themselves. Watch for potentially violent behavior and suicidal actions. Find a school official, medical professional, parent or police officer for assistance.

Preventing PCP Use

Knowledge is key. This is no recreational drug. It leads to death and insanity. One touch of Angel Dust may leave stains that never come out.

Realize this drug is commonly hidden in other forms: cigarettes, joints, drinks and other drugs. By accident or by maliciousness, exposure and overdose are often unintended. Beware of anything offered to you be people you don’t know or trust.

Outreach volunteers are focussed on major metropolitan centers, where PCP use is highest. The youth and the high-risk 25-34 year old males receive the most attention. Anyone, however, is at risk for accidental exposure particularly if running with a sketchy crowd. What is unacceptable for you may be just fine with your peers.

Recovery from Angel Dust

It is possible to come back from PCP abuse. A combination of strategies is required.

Exercise can unseat the tension and depression left behind by Angel Dust. The sweating and increase in metabolism help eliminate the drug from the body. Jogging, bicycling and swimming are great solo diversions. Team sports should wait until the patient is fully socialized.

Changes in diet make a big difference, particularly in rebuilding a body more used to consuming drugs than food. Lots of carbohydrates and little junk food will return stamina. Hydration is essential. Avoid caffeine and sugar.

Rest and relax. The user must realize the trauma they’ve been through and bring life back to order. They need quiet, space and peace. Then they must make clear future goals and keep a limited number of positive friends.

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