Phencyclidine — better known as PCP — may be making a comeback, and the recent death of a Herndon man shows just how dangerous the drug can be.
On April 20, the Herndon Police Department received a call for service in the 800 block of Station Street.
When they arrived, they found a 44-year-old man dead, seated in a chair on his back patio.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court by Herndon Police Officer Jeffrey Lange, when police questioned the man’s girlfriend, she told them she had confronted her boyfriend about a “strong chemical odor” emanating from him. She said he explained to her that he had just smoked a “dipper,” which is a cigarette dipped in liquid PCP. According to the search warrant affidavit, a friend of the deceased Herndon man told police that they had “each smoked a hand-rolled cigarette laced with PCP” just prior to the Herndon man saying that he did not feel well and seating himself on his patio, where he died.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, individuals of all ages use PCP. Data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 6 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older used PCP at least once in their lifetime. The survey also revealed that many teenagers and young adults use PCP — 225,000 individuals aged 12 to 17 and 777,000 individuals aged 18 to 25 have used the drug at least once.
PCP use among high school students is a particular concern. Nearly 3 percent of high school seniors in the United States used the drug at least once in their lifetime, according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey.
National officials say PCP is an addictive drug; its use often results in psychological dependence, craving and compulsive behavior. PCP produces unpleasant psychological effects, and users often become violent or suicidal.
PCP poses particular risks for young people. Even moderate use of the drug can negatively affect the hormones associated with normal growth and development. PCP use also can impede the learning process in teenagers.
The National Drug Intelligence Center says high doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and even death at high doses. PCP’s effects may resemble the symptoms associated with schizophrenia, including delusions and paranoia. Long-term use of PCP can lead to memory loss, difficulty with speech or thought, depression, and weight loss. These problems can persist for up to a year after an individual has stopped using the drug.
“Dipping cigarettes in PCP is a common way to smoke it,” said Fairfax County Police spokesman Bud Walker. “When a marijuana cigarette is dipped in PCP, it is often referred to as ‘boat.’”
Walker acknowledged that the Fairfax County Police Department sees instances of PCP being abused within the county, but many Virginia police departments do not single out PCP in their drug statistics, so it is difficult to determine the extent of statewide usage patterns.
Lt. Jim Moore of the Herndon Police Department said a coroner’s report showed PCP was in fact a factor in the death of the 44-year-old Herndon man. “It wasn’t the only factor, there were some other health issues involved, but the PCP likely escalated his heart rate to the point where he couldn’t take it,” he said. “PCP was very prevalent in this area in the 1980s and I certainly hope it is not coming back.”