- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Abuse of the hallucinogen PCP has skyrocketed in the District, with its abuse growing faster than any city in the country, according to government analysts.
"At this point, it has reached the proportion of crack use in Washington," said Henry Bills, an analyst for the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center, who estimated the increase at four times since last year without citing numbers.
Elsewhere around the country, illicit use of PCP has leveled off after having risen steadily since 1998. Abuse of PCP, or phencyclidine, peaked in the 1980s and has made a dramatic comeback, especially in Chicago, Philadelphia and the District.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey told The Washington Times this week that an explosion in PCP abuse in the District is partly responsible for the city's escalating homicide rate.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the District last year trailed only Chicago and Philadelphia in the number of people per 100,000 residents seeking emergency-room care after PCP abuse.
DAWN tracks the number of persons seeking emergency treatment for overdoses or unexpected reactions to drugs.
Nationwide, statistics show that emergency-room treatments for PCP abuse have increased steadily from 4,033 in 1998 to 4,969 in 1999 to 6,583 in 2000. Last year, figures leveled off, with 6,102 cases reported.
The District, however, had a 66 percent increase in the number of people seeking treatment for PCP abuse last year, from 317 in 2000 to 525 in 2001. In 1998, 152 persons sought such treatment.
Metropolitan Police report that in October, the most recent month for which statistics are available, 16 percent of the 1,457 adults arrested and screened for drugs tested positive for PCP. About 4 percent tested positive for PCP in October 1998.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration's Web site (www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/states/washingtondc.html), PCP has a history of higher-than-average levels of abuse in the District. But its introduction into the assortment of drugs abused by young adults in the city's clubs has renewed interest in PCP.
Inspector Hilton Burton, who commands the Metropolitan Police Department's Major Narcotics Branch, said children as young as 12 are using PCP.
Inspector Burton told The Times in September that officers worry most about handling persons who have abused the drug because it can temporarily increase their strength and make them violent.
"A lot of young officers have never dealt with people on PCP or the violence associated with PCP," he said. "[PCP abusers] just don't feel pain. I've seen a woman 120 pounds throw a police officer twice her size around."
Mr. Bills said PCP has a tendency to "aggravate a situation."
"If you're on PCP and you get into a confrontation, you're more apt to react violently," he said.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, "retail" distributors of PCP in the District are usually independent dealers and criminal groups that purchase the drug from wholesale distributors based in Southern California.
Criminal groups based in Newark, N.J., Cleveland, New York City and Philadelphia also supply D.C. criminal groups with wholesale quantities of PCP, but to a lesser extent.
PCP-laced cigarettes sell for $10 to $15 in the District. A liquid ounce runs from $300 to $500, and a gallon costs from $18,000 to $22,000.
Last month, Baltimore seized 200 gallons of liquid PCP some of which was "headed this way," Chief Ramsey told The Times.
Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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