Marijuana Laced with PCP and Embalming Fluid

While reports of the drug have been around since the 1980s, many people are unaware of the drug known by the street names “wet,” “fry,” or “Illy.”

Marijuana cigarettes or sticks are sometimes dipped in embalming fluid and laced with PCP in order to change the effects of the base drug. Unfortunately these adulterants also change the adverse effects and greatly increase the risks to the user.

Key Componentsmarijuana laced with pcp

Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant called Cannibis sativa and contains the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

The marijuana leaves are smoked (most commonly) or eaten so that THC will enter the bloodstream. THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, that are involved in concentration, time perception, movement, memory, and pleasure.

Stimulating cannabinoid receptors also increases hunger and appetite.

PCP or phencyclidine is a man-made drug that can be smoked, eaten, or snorted. The street name for PCP is angel dust. Phencyclidine was originally created in a laboratory and intended to be used as an anesthetic but, because it had so many side effects and unwanted properties, the FDA never approved the drug for any medical use.

Embalming fluid is not necessarily a single chemical but often contains formaldehyde and methanol, both of which are toxic to living humans. Formaldehyde is a fixative, which means it keeps tissue from breaking down as it normally would after death.

Short Term Effects

By itself, marijuana causes users to lose track of time, have trouble with concentration, and become forgetful. It is also a powerful stimulator of hunger. Most users report a mild euphoria.

Formaldehyde (common ingredient in embalming fluid) can cause feelings of euphoria as well, though as a drug of abuse it has not been well-studied.

PCP or phencyclidine is considered a dissociative drug in that it creates the experience of being separate from or outside of reality. Like LSD and mushrooms, PCP is an hallucinogenic drug that causes sights and sounds to be distorted (“acid trip”). PCP can create strong feelings of power and invincibility.

When marijuana, PCP, and embalming fluid are combined, the effects go far beyond the individual components.

The euphoria is reported to be more intense and to last longer than the individual drugs. However the dissociative effects are more pronounced, so that users essentially lose complete touch with reality.

Short Term Damage

PCP causes symptoms similar to those experienced in schizophrenia such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Problems with normal thinking

In addition to severe paranoia, users experience anxiety and depression for up to two days after use.

When PCP was first abused in the 1970s, most street users recognized the problems with the drug such as “freak outs” and “bad trips.”  These adverse effects are certainly not less when combined with marijuana and embalming fluid.

When marijuana, PCP, and embalming fluid are combined, the effects go far beyond the individual components.

Marijuana and PCP can cause people to become paranoid, but the paranoia is extremely intense when the drugs are taken together.

The paranoia and anxiety grip the user causing severe panic attacks. The drugs cause a depersonalization or “out of body” experience. There have been reports of aggressive behavior and violence as a result, because of the concurrent feelings of invulnerability.

Embalming fluid is highly irritating to the throat and lungs and can cause short and long term damage to the respiratory tract. At high concentrations, formaldehyde is a neurotoxin.

Long Term Damage

While marijuana does not cause a physical dependence, PCP is addictive. Embalming fluid is not known to be addictive. If one becomes dependent on PCP, it is possible for the user to continually return to using “wet” or “fry” because they are not aware that they are craving the PCP component.

Embalming fluid, because it is a fixative, can cause serious damage to tissues that it touches. Often users will have problems in the mouth, throat, esophagus, fingers, and lungs.  

The fluid destroys tissue by “fixing” it in place (and essentially killing the cells within it). Users experience:

  • Recurrent and severe bronchitis
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Lung damage

PCP causes long term neurological and psychiatric problems. People who have abused PCP:

  • Lose memory
  • Have problems thinking and speaking
  • Have mood disorders such as depression

Even if the user stops abusing PCP, these effects can last for a year or more.

Overdose

PCP can be deadly at high doses. 

It causes:

  • A serious drop in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate
  • Abnormal eye movements, blurred vision, drooling, and problems moving
  • At high doses, PCP can cause seizures, coma, and death

It is conceivable that high doses of inhaled formaldehyde can cause serious, acute lung injury that requires hospitalization.

Symptoms and Signs of Abuse

PCP causes severe anxiety and mood symptoms for up to two days after use. Users appear anxious and paranoid even after the drug has presumably left the person’s system.

One might notice an abuser with intermittent symptoms of anxiety or schizophrenia that seems to come and go (not a normal feature of true schizophrenia).

The embalming fluid in “wet” might give the abuse away, too.

Users’ fingers will appear rough or strange because of the “fixed” skin.

Abusers of “fry” will have mouth and lung problems, perhaps chronically, that might be noticed as an unrelenting cough and or wheezing.

Adverse Interactions

“Fry” is, itself, a harmful combination of drugs. Recall that PCP was designed to be an anesthetic and can be a sedative.

Thus when “wet” is used with benzodiazepines or alcohol, it can depress the central nervous system. This means that consciousness and breathing can be suppressed.


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Sources

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  • Marceaux JC, Dilks LS, Hixson S. Neuropsychological effects of formaldehyde use. J Psychoactive Drugs. Jun 2008;40(2):207-210.
  • Peters RJ, Jr., Williams M, Ross MW, Atkinson J, McCurdy SA. The use of fry (embalming fluid and PCP-laced cigarettes or marijuana sticks) among crack cocaine smokers. J Drug Educ. 2008;38(3):285-295.
  • Yago KB, Pitts FN, Jr., Burgoyne RW, Aniline O, Yago LS, Pitts AF. The urban epidemic of phencyclidine (PCP) use: clinical and laboratory evidence from a public psychiatric hospital emergency service. J Clin Psychiatry. May 1981;42(5):193-196.
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