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Dissociative Drugs (PCP & Ketamine)

two teens Dissociative drugs distort perceptions of sight and sound and produce feelings of detachment (or dissociation) from the environment and self. These mind-altering effects are not hallucinations. PCP and ketamine are therefore more properly known as "dissociative anesthetics." Dissociative drugs include PCP, Ketamine and Dextromethorphan (DXM):
  1. PCP (phencyclidine)
  2. Ketamine (see Club Drugs)
  3. Dextromethorphan (DXM)

PCP (phencyclidine)
PCP was developed as an intravenous anesthetic. It is no longer used medically due to serious adverse effects. It is misused for its hallucinogenic effects. Users may call it angel dust, embalming fluid, killer weed, rocket fuel, or supergrass.

How Is PCP Used?
PCP is a white crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol. It can easily be mixed with dyes and is often sold on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablet, capsule, and colored powder forms that are snorted, smoked, or swallowed. When smoked, PCP is often applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana.

PCP users may feel detached, distant and estranged from their surroundings. They may hear things that are
not happening.
What Are the Risks Associated with PCP Use?
Users may have severe mood disorders, acute anxiety, paranoia and hostility, as well as psychosis.

Other effects include numbness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination accompanied by a sense of strength and invulnerability. A blank stare, rapid and involuntary eye movements, and an exaggerated gait are among the more observable effects. PCP users are brought to emergency rooms because of overdose or because of the drug’s severe psychological effects.

While intoxicated, PCP abusers may become violent or suicidal and are therefore dangerous to themselves and others. High doses of PCP can also cause seizures, coma, and death. However, PCP-related deaths more often result from accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication. Because PCP can also have sedative effects, interactions with other central depressants, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, can also lead
to coma.

Dextromethorphan (DXM)
DXM is a cough-suppressing ingredient in a variety of over-the-counter cold and cough medications. The most common source of misused DXM is "extra-strength" cough syrup.

Users may call it dex, robo, skittles, rojo, triple C, velvet or tussin.
How Is DXM Misused?
DXM is taken orally, in much larger doses than recommended.

The effects vary with dose, and DXM users describe a set of distinct levels ranging from a mild stimulant effect with distorted visual perceptions to a sense of being outside one's body. The effects may last for 6 hours.

What Are the Risks Associated with DXM Misuse?
Misuse can cause blurred vision, body itching, rash, sweating, fever, hypertension, shallow respiration, diarrhea, toxic psychosis, coma, and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Some users become violent after ingesting the drug. DXM overdoses are rare because other ingredients induce vomiting. Deaths may be caused by combining with other drugs or by impaired senses leading to accidents.

Over-the-counter medications that contain DXM often contain antihistamine and decongestant ingredients as well. High doses of these substances cause side effects of their own, including possible sleepiness, dizziness, disturbed coordination, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, nervousness, blurred vision, nausea or loss or appetite. This adds to the risk from DXM itself.

Dissociative Drug Misuse in NYC
In 2008-2009, an estimated 2,000 New Yorkers aged 12 or older used PCP in the past year.

► See Related NYC Health Department Publications

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Last Updated: May 29, 2013