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After 2 Decades,
PCP Still Lurking
In Addicts' World
EDITOR'S NOTE: The drug PCP once was considered one of the
most dangerous on the streets. It still is, although crack claims more
media attention these days. Now, reflecting a new big-city trend
"angel dust" is being mixed with other drugs such as cocaine and
claiming a prominent place in the drug user's baq
By CLINT WILSON y y ,
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Despite two decades of warnings about
the dangers of the outlawed animal anesthetic PCP, the mind-
twisting "angel dust" high remains popular among a new genera-
tion of drug abusers.
While the public spotlight has been turned on crack and cocaine
in recent months, police believe that the use of PCP is again on the
increase, says Lt. Dan Cooke, a Los Angeles police spokesman.
For one thing, drug users increasingly are combining PCP with
cocaine and other drugs, authorities say.
"We thought the use of PCP was going down because the word
got out over the years that it's a real killer," Cooke says. "But now
apparently we have a younger generation that has to find out for
For years stories circulated about PCP users plunging to their
deaths while trying to fly, or flaying wildly at police officers, snap-
ping handcuffs, gnawing into bulletproof vests, breaking teeth and
bones without flinching.
Effects on chronic users can include recurrence of a psychotic
state closely resembling schizophrenia long after they quit taking
. A \^ST •
Police Sgt. Dick Studdard, who trains officers to recognize intoxi-
cated drivers, says about 15 percent of those stopped for drunken
driving have been using drugs or drugs and alcohol in combination.
Ot those, about half typically have been using PCP, he says.
The erratic and frequently violent behavior of PCP users makes
the drug a major problem for every officer on the street, says police
narcotics Detective Milt Dodge. The drug was originally developed
as an anesthetic, and people under its influence often appear im-
pervious to pain.
"They have been known to break handcuffs without even notic-
ing they've broken their wrists in the process," Dodge says, adding
that it takes about 500 pounds of pressure to break a pair of hand-
Statistics support his fears: In San Jose, Calif., for example
police reported that 62 percent of the officers who became disabled
in 1984 were injured in scuffles with PCP users.
PCP is easy to make and cheap, which makes it popular among
teen-agers. Contrary to a popular belief, Dodge says, its abuse is
common not only in low-income areas, but in middle-class suburbs
Dodge says the public may underestimate the PCP problem be-
cause media attention has shifted to cocaine and crack. Raids on
PCP labs in the cities have declined.
Since one gallon of PCP can sell for $12,000, there is no shortage
of underground chemists. PCP labs give off odors which some
describe as similar to those of dirty socks or the ether smell of a
biology lab. The chemical ingredients are extremely volatile and
explosions at the labs are not uncommon.
When explosions, fires and big-city busts earned headlines across
the nation, PCP producers shifted their strategy, Dodge says.
"We now find the labs in rural desert and mountain areas be-
cause city residents smell odors coming from the plants in their
neighborhoods and call police," he says.
But if there are fewer labs in the cities, there are still plenty of
PCP users, in whom large doses can produce effects ranging from
agitation to convulsive seizures to madness.
Increasingly, those problems are compounded by use of other
"What we're seeing increasingly are polydrug users," says Julia
Hillsman, director of the Hillsman Drug and Alcohol Center, a
major Los Angeles County drug rehabilitation facility.
Hillsman said that in late 1984, cocaine dependency surpassed
PCP as the most common problem at her center. Nevertheless,
PCP use remains a problem. Some heroin addicts believe it eases
the sickness of withdrawal. Other drug users might prefer cocaine,
but can't find it.
John H. Griffith, the program director of clinical services at Los
Angeles' Kedren Community Mental Health Center, agrees that
users are more inclined these days to mix their drugs.
"We are not seeing as much solely PCP-induced psychosis be-
cause users are increasingly combining it with cocaine," he says.
Griffith says only about 10 cases of PCP as a single abuse subst-
ance have been treated at Kedren during the past year. But, he
adds, "we've had about 25 to 30 cases of PCP-cocaine combination
users during that time."
PCP, short for phencyclidine, was originally developed in the
mid-1950s as an anesthetic and was given a British patent in 1960
under the trade name Serny. An American patent was issued in
The drug's undesirable side effects resulted in its withdrawal
from the market in 1965. Two years later it became commercially
available for use as an animal anesthetic under the name Sernylan.
But in April 1979, legal manufacture was banned.
Scientists say its effects vary depending upon dosage, how it is
taken and the circumstances of use. PCP may be taken in powder,
tablet or liquid form or in leaf mixtures usually with parsley, orega-
no or marijuana.
The drug may be consumed orally, by injection, by inhaling into
the nose or smoking. Authorities say its most potent form is the
powdery preparation known on the street as "angel dust."
In cigarette form, PCP's nicknames include "killer weed," "mint-
weed," and "supergrass." A common tobacco cigarette dipped in
PCP is known as a "sherm."
NOTRE DAME prekindergartener Kenneth Williams gives
some friendly mechanical advice to city worker Kevin Gallie
Times Photo By Susan Sander
of the Parks and Recreation Department at Lytle Street
Park on a recent sunny afternoon.
False Molestation Charges On Rise
By LEE SIEGEL
AP Science Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) —
Fathers seeking custody of their
offspring during divorce battles
are increasingly subject to false
accusations that they sexually
mo l es t ed t hei r c hi l dr e n,
The therapists blamed greater
public awareness of sexual
abuse, laws requiring teachers
and doctors to report even un-
substantiated accusations, care-
less counselors who interview
alleged victims and joint custody
laws that spur mothers to fight
harder for sole custody of their
The custody laws and chang-
ing moral values mean mothers
"have got to get a little more vi-
cious and come up with some-
thing better than adultery"
accus at i ons agai nst t hei r
estranged husbands during cus-
tody battles, said Dr. Diane
Schetky, a Rockport, Maine,
Experts lack reliable statistics
documenting the increase in un-
founded molestation allegations,
said Schetky and other therap-
ists who delivered papers about
the trend Friday during the
annual meeting of the American
Academy of Child and Adoles-
who investigate such claims
"uniformly report a marked in-
crease in false allegations of sex-
ual abuse arising in contested
custody cases," said Melvin
Guyer, a University of Michigan
psychologist-lawyer who evalu-
ates custody cases for Michigan
"False sexual abuse allega-
tions are rare to begin with, but
the area where they're (in-
creasingly) common is in con-
tested custody disputes," and
fathers are almost always the
targets, said Dr. Spencer Eth, a
psychiatrist at the University of
Southern California and the Uni-
versity of California at Los
Eth warned that false claims of
molestation in divorce cases
"should not discredit allegations
of sexual abuse of children who
are not in contested custody
cases. Most of those allegations
Most false accusations of
molestation are made sincerely,
not intentionally, Guyer said.
"A mother would say that little
Sally came back from a visit with
her dad, she was quiet, she
looked tired, she was weepy, she
wasn't herself, her tummy hurt,"
he explained. "Then the child
has a diaper rash, and the
mot her put s all the pieces
together and says, 'I think some-
thing happened.' "
"There are some parents who
believe their own lies," said
Schetky, who has testified on be-
half of fathers accused of sexual
abuse. "If mommy says enough
times it really happened, she (the
child) tends to believe mommy."
She said some mothers who
were molested as children be-
come "hypervigilant" for signs of
abuse in their own offspring.
Guyer said many false accusa-
tions don't involve outright
molestation, but such statements
as the father "walks around the
house in his underwear in front
of his child or he bathes with little
"In an adversarial divorce,,
what was innocent during the
marriage becomes suspect "
Schetky, Eth and Guyer said
molestation accusations have in-
creased in recent years because
news stories raised public
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