- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

Law-enforcement authorities are concerned that the use of the hallucinogen phencyclidine, better known as PCP, is on the rise with the expansion of high-volume laboratories into several states, including Maryland.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, authorities are seeing drug gangs across the country that produce and distribute PCP expand their bases of operations.

The drug rings, primarily black gang members, are centered in Los Angeles and Houston, although a recent DEA update noted what it described as “the recent emergence of large PCP laboratories in other locations,” including Maryland. The DEA called the expansion in the number of known PCP labs a “cause for concern.”

“There are indications of a PCP resurgence,” said the DEA update. “Recent large seizures of the drug, coupled with the discovery of clandestine laboratories operating outside of traditional source areas, may be an indication that demand for PCP is increasing.

“Even though the trafficking and abuse of PCP is not as widespread as with other illicit drugs, the violent consequences of its abuse are always causes for concern,” the agency said of the drug, which has been around since the mid-1960s and has proved to be one of the most dangerous of all synthetic drugs.

The DEA recently shut down a multimillion-dollar PCP ring that operated a laboratory in northwest Baltimore and a business front in Jessup, Md., from which it purchased large amounts of precursor chemicals, including cyanide, under the guise of a carpet-cleaning business.

The Maryland-based operation, one of the largest ever seized on the East Coast, was believed capable of producing up to 1,255 gallons of liquid PCP. The street value of the drugs confiscated was put at about $50 million.

Baltimore police said the largest previous seizure of liquid PCP in Baltimore was about a gallon. The DEA said the Baltimore-area gang members intended to lace marijuana with PCP to increase its marketability and profit margin.

The DEA also noted that while the precursors and solvents needed to manufacture PCP are obtained primarily from sources in California, other supply outlets have been identified in Maryland, Connecticut, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas.

In most cases, the DEA said, the precursors were obtained from legitimate commercial and bulk chemical companies under false pretenses through the use of falsified information and by way of front businesses. The DEA said the Baltimore operation fraudulently obtained chemicals from a company in Maryland through its Jessup front.

The concern about possible PCP expansion in Maryland is coupled with a dramatic rise in the number of PCP-related cases in the District last year, estimated at about 200. That compares with fewer than 30 just two years earlier.

Referred to as angel dust, hog, ozone, rocket fuel, Shermans, wack, crystal and embalming fluid, PCP often is combined with marijuana.

The drug is available in powder, crystal, tablet, capsule and liquid form, and can be snorted, smoked or swallowed. Smoking PCP is the most common method of abuse, where the drug is combined with mint, parsley, oregano, tobacco or marijuana and rolled into a joint. Its effects can occur within two minutes after smoking and within 30 minutes after being swallowed.

The DEA said PCP intoxication may last between four and eight hours, although some users have said the effects can last as long as 48 hours.

Persons on PCP often have been observed committing violent, uncontrolled acts toward others and, according to the DEA, chronic abuse can impair memory, thinking and speech, and lead to suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, social withdrawal and social isolation.

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