If you’re reading this, I presume you share my interest in jumped-up drug addicts acting like lunatics. A lot of those types of stories seem to involve PCP, otherwise known as phencyclidine, otherwise known as angel dust.* PCP is a dissociative drug, which means it can foster feelings of detachment, disorientation, and distortion.
There are a lot of myths surrounding PCP. As a Los Angeles Times article put it, “Users are reported to have blithely amputated parts of their body—pulling their teeth out with pliers or gouging out their eyes. Mothers were accused of scalding or maiming their infants. And felons are said to have terrified police officers when gunfire failed to halt their advance or when, in a superhuman show of strength, they popped their handcuffs.”
But while there are many apocryphal stories about PCP, there is truth to the notion that it can elicit weird behavior. In a 2007 article for the California Journal of Emergency Medicine titled “Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug,” Tareg Bey and Anar Patel reviewed much of the scholarship on recreational PCP abuse and found that “doses of 5 to 10 mg orally may induce acute schizophrenia, including agitation, psychosis, audiovisual hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and catatonia.” They also wrote that “the most disturbing behavioral effects of PCP are violent, aggressive and bizarre behavior with self-mutilation tendencies.” In layman’s terms, that means PCP can trigger the sort of behavior that will get you on the news.
As a public service, I scoured the Lexis-Nexis and Factiva databases for every PCP-related story I could find from the month of March, carefully weeding out all stories having to do with primary care physicians. I’m presenting some of the highlights here. Take heed, angel dusters: These things could happen to you.
Nakedness is trending. You will frequently see stories about PCP users disrobing in public. While it can feel good to let your freak flag fly, doing so can have unfortunate consequences, as a New Britain, Conn., man recently learned. As the Hartford Courant put it, “Reports of a nude man running through Walnut Hill Park this week led police to a group of friends and their stash of a PCP-laced drug.” That’s some keen detective work right there. I’m picturing the water-cooler conversation down at the station house. “Great case. How’d you solve it?” “Well, the real breakthrough came when the babbling nudist led us directly to his drug stash.” “Oh.”
“That’s brisk, baby!” So you’re trying to move a few gallons’ worth of liquid PCP. Where do you store it while you’re waiting for the deal to go down? For one Ohio man, the answer was “in some big jugs of Lipton Sweet Tea.” On the one hand, that’s a pretty decent hiding place. On the other hand, you run the risk of losing your potential profit if a friend gets thirsty. I can’t decide which is worse: mistakenly chugging a pint of liquid PCP because you think it's Lipton Sweet Tea, or actually having to drink a glass of Lipton Sweet Tea.
PCP is a menace to children. In Williamsport, Penn., a striong candidate for the title of world’s worst mother was charged with child endangerment after her 10-month-old daughter allegedly ingested a cigarette laced with PCP. In Oklahoma City, another mother left her two-year-olds alone inside an unlocked car while she ran a brief errand. When she returned, the car was gone. Cops found the car a few minutes later, with the children unharmed and a disoriented PCP user behind the wheel. As KFOR-TV put it, “the suspect ‘was not coherent and constantly had a blank stare on her face’ and appeared to be high on PCP. … Oklahoma City police said the incident illustrates why you should never leave kids alone in an unlocked car.” Indeed.
Slow. Ri. Der. In Houston, Texas, an allegedly PCP-addled driver led police on a 15-to-20 mph car chase before he was caught, presumably when he stopped to let a bunch of baby ducklings cross the street. The man will face various charges, and will also receive a certificate proclaiming him the “World’s Least Dangerous Dangerous Driver.”
“That’s PCP and I smoke it.” I could’ve filled this entire roundup with nothing but stories of vehicular mischief. Take this story, for example: Police in Stamford, Conn., stopped a car for speeding. After approaching it, they detected “an odor commonly associated with the drug PCP.” Give the driver credit for being very forthcoming about the contents of the suspicious packages cops found in his shirt pocket: “That's PCP and I smoke it,” he apparently said. At least he didn’t say: “That’s PCP and it’s priced to move.”
PCP Story of the Month. This month’s honoree contains elements from most of the other PCP tales: nudity, children, motor vehicles, Connecticut, and utter inexplicability. The Hartford Courant reports on Santos Rodriguez, a Bridgeport, Conn., man who had two major problems in life: a contentious romantic relationship and, according to the local police, a history of PCP use. In mid-March, after the second problem apparently met the first problem, Rodriguez ended up with a third problem: a first-degree kidnapping charge.
As the Courant’s David Owens explains, a Bridgeport woman called the police, complaining that “her boyfriend, who she said appeared to be under the influence of drugs, had run out of the house naked with her infant son.” And where had he run to? An I-95 on-ramp. When the cops came to arrest him, he was sitting naked on the roadway, after having passed the baby off on a random motorist who stopped to render assistance. (The baby was not hurt.)
What precipitated this weirdness?
The baby's mother told police that Rodriguez had come home after a night out and was acting erratically. She said he was stumbling around, said someone was after him, then said the baby's mother was the devil, police said. He then hurled a Bible at her, police said.
And that’s your month in PCP. I’ll be back in April with more slow-speed chases and more nudity.
*Correction, March 29, 2013: This post originally misspelled phencyclidine, the drug commonly known as PCP. (Return.)