BACKGROUND: Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP or "angel dust," is sold illegally in many forms, including powder, crystal, tablet, capsule, and liquid. Most often, it is smoked in combination with marijuana or tobacco. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the popularity of PCP use has fluctuated since it first emerged as a drug of abuse in the late 1960s and was localized to some metropolitan areas. PCP abuse waned throughout the 1970s and rose again in the early 1980s. DEA noted that the resurgence of PCP in the 1980s was localized in certain metropolitan areas including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.
METHODS: National estimates of Emergency Department (ED) visits involving PCP were analyzed using data from the 2005 to 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
RESULTS: The estimated number of PCP-related ED visits increased more than 400% between 2005 and 2011 (from 14,825 to 75,538 visits); more recently, the number of these visits doubled between 2009 and 2011 (from 36,719 to 75,538). The largest increase in PCP-related ED visits was seen among patients aged 25 to 34, an increase of more than 500% from 2005 to 2011 (from 5,556 to 34,329 visits). In 2011, 69% of PCP-related ED visits were made by males, and 45% were made by persons aged 25 to 34. Other illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, were involved in 48% of PCP-related ED visits.
CONCLUSIONS: The recent increase in ED visits involving PCP is of particular concern because within the class of illicit drugs that cause hallucinations, PCP is reputed to be the most dangerous and is especially known for causing violent behavior. Although PCP may have once been recognized in the general population as a dangerous drug, potential users today may be less likely to know of these risks because of "generational forgetting." Although DAWN was not capable of producing valid regional estimates, metropolitan area estimates suggest that the distribution of ED visits involving PCP and patterns of PCP use are not geographically uniform.
Key Words: phencyclidine, PCP, angel dust, Drug Abuse Warning Network, DAWN, emergency department visits