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Winter 2014, Volume 22, Number 1

Nurses walking down a hospital corridor, one who is pushing a patient in a bed on wheels.

PCP-Related Emergency Department Visits Rise 400 Percent

SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) released a short report revealing an alarming 400 percent increase in Phencyclidine (commonly known as PCP or "angel dust") emergency department visits between 2005 and 2011. The number of visits actually doubled in just 3 years (2009-2011), demonstrating a rapid increase. In comparison, between 1995 and 2002, emergency rooms reported a 28 percent increase. The report also noted the most significant increase (518 percent) with men aged 25 to 34 (see chart).

What PCP Does to the User

PCP is a hallucinogen similar to Ecstasy and LSD, but with different effects. The drug can make the user feel detached, while experiencing distorted sights and sounds, and can lead to hostile and violent behavior and thoughts of suicide. Emergency department visits typically involve some of the severe symptoms such as irregular breathing, seizures, and coma – either when the person feels in crisis and seeks help, or when law enforcement becomes involved. Because the drug can cause an individual to become agitated and violent, the safety of those at home, in the community, or providing assistance in a health emergency can be at risk.

Prevention Efforts

Because the dramatic increase in use of PCP was more prevalent in some areas of the United States (New York City and Chicago), and particularly in urban communities, prevention efforts could be targeted to particular geographic areas. Outreach to adults aged 25 to 34, where there's the most significant increase in use, may also slow or lessen the trend. Raising awareness of the common drug combinations (e.g., marijuana, cocaine, and prescription drugs), that put a user at greater risk, can improve response and treatment. SAMHSA supports prevention efforts through its Substance Abuse Block Grants and a range of other programs.

"This report is a wake-up call that this dangerous drug may be making a comeback in communities throughout the nation," said Peter Delany, Ph.D., LCSW-C, Director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "We must take steps at every level to combat the spread of this public health threat."

Emergency Department (ED) Visits Involving Phencyclidine (PCP), by Gender, Age Group*, and Year: 2005 vs. 2011

About DAWN

DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits and drug-related deaths to track the impact of drug use, misuse, and abuse in the United States. The Emergency Department Visits Involving Phencyclidine (PCP) report is based on DAWN's findings from 2005 to 2011.

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