PCP (Phencyclidine): Fact or fiction

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 2:49 pm

Are violence and PCP related?
Street rumors and the popular media have spread stories about PCP ‘freaks’ who have seemingly superhuman strength and are monstrously violent. But does PCP really cause bizarre, violent behavior?
The first major media coverage of PCP started around mid to late 70s, just a few years after the drug hit the street. The stories covered by the media focused on the fact that PCP reduces or even eliminates people’s ability to feel pain, which can make them appear to have superhuman strength, and can sometimes unleash extreme agitation or hostility during a bad trip. Stories covered by the media at this time included those of people high on PCP gouging their own eyes out, drowning in a swimming pool or shower stall, burning to death in a fire, cutting off various body parts, and violently attacking innocent people.
The truth is that PCP can, in rare cases, unleash violent behavior in someone who is panicked and having a bad trip. Such a reaction is most likely to happen in people who have never taken the drug before and/or who did not know they were taking PCP. Also, a certain subset of PCP users, angry adolescent males from poor, violent inner city ghettos, are probably prone to violence without any help from PCP. On the other hand, violent behavior among many regular PCP users is actually lower than that of the general population. In fact, when regular PCP users were asked about the connection between PCP and violence, they were surprised that any such connection had ever been suggested.
In summary, while PCP has been known in rare, sensationalized cases to make people do bizarre or terrible things, not everyone who takes it turns to violence.


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