Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Quora, in answer to the question, “What is it like to do angel dust?” We have reprinted the answer with the permission of its author, Tim Dees, a criminal justice consultant and ex-cop.
I’ve never used phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust), nor do I have a desire to. I can tell you what I have observed of people who have taken the drug.
One of the formerly legitimate uses of PCP was as a veterinary anesthetic. It makes pain all but irrelevant to the user. This lack of pain response is what leads to the myth that PCP gives people superhuman strength.
PCP doesn’t make people any stronger than they are normally, but it does keep them from feeling the pain associated with overworked muscles and bones subjected to extreme stress. This is how PCP users have occasionally broken out of handcuffs. Many people could do so, but not without causing themselves extreme pain and possible wrist fractures. PCP users do not feel the pain associated with these until they have recovered from the effects of the drug.
PCP also tends to make people extraordinarily sensitive to light and sound stimuli, hallucinatory, and psychotic. They will see dragons, demons, all sorts of things that aren’t there. A PCP user might sit by himself , staring off into space, and seem very peaceful and tranquil.
If he is subjected to a loud sound (such as clapping of hands or a door slamming) or a bright light, even turning the lights on in a room, he can go off and become extremely violent. Because of the lack of a pain response, it can take several large people to restrain a PCP user, even if the user is of small to average build.
The drug drives up body temperature. Users can get unbearably hot, and may take off all their clothing and dive into any body of water — or anything that looks like water — in an attempt to cool off.
When I was undergoing training to become a drug influence recognition expert, I spent a couple of shifts working out of a Northern California police station that got lots of drug user traffic. I was going over the symptoms of PCP use when a local cop saw me and laughed.
“PCP user? If you see a wet, naked guy in the station, wearing two pairs of handcuffs, that’s a PCP user.”
Sure enough, within two hours, I was conducting an exam on a wet, naked guy who had been brought to us wearing two pairs of handcuffs.
I’ll underscore what Sed Chapman said: you don’t want anything to do with this stuff.
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