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pharmacology: pcp & ketamine

Word on the Street:

PCP, angel dust, T, PeaCe pill, Special K, K. Both Ketamine and PCP cause hallucinogenic reactions that resemble those caused by LSD.

What are they?

PCP and Ketamine are hallucinogenic drugs with anesthetic properties. PCP's chemical name is 1-(1-phencyclohexyl) piperidine. The drug is typically smoked, mixed in powdered form with a leafy substance such as parsley, mint, tobacco, or marijuana; it may also be dissolved in a liquid and sprayed onto the leaves. It also can be injected or inhaled. The effects of PCP depend on the susceptibility of the user and other variables such as mood, dosage, and setting. Effects are evident one to two hours after ingestion and generally last four to six hours. Among chronic users, the reappearance of disorientation and visual, memory, and speech disorders has been noted. The drug accumulates in the body.

In the brain:

As with other hallucinogenic drugs, PCP does not cause physical dependence. In low doses, it produces effects similar to those of LSD, although violent and psychotic behaviour seem to be more characteristic of PCP.

Both Ketamine and PCP have mild effects including feelings of detachment from the surroundings, emotional swings and an altered sense of space and time. Higher doses cause visual distortions and illusions. Users can also feel a separation from their bodies. Most users do not have psychotic episodes, but PCP especially is extremely unpredictable. The PCP user exhibits emotional instability, excited intoxication, lack of coordination, and is often impervious to pain. At high doses, PCP is highly toxic and can cause convulsions and coma.

In the body:

Physical effects of PCP include high blood pressure, increased deep-tendon muscle reflexes, respiratory depression, dangerously high body temperature and muscle rigidity. The physical effects of Ketamine are similar but are much milder.

How it works:

Both PCP and ketamine block the actions of the neurotransmittor glutamate at one of its receptors. Glutamate is an inhibatory neurotransmittor. This can cause the feeling of disconnection from body or environment. At the same time, PCP acts like an amphetamine by releasing the neurotransmittor dopamine. This accounts for the excitation, increased energy and activity. This makes PCP have a tremendous overdose hazard and causes users to react unpredictably and hurt themselves. Ketamine does not have this effect on dopamine.

the downside:

At high doses, PCP is highly toxic and can cause convulsions and coma. Among chronic users, the reappearance of disorientation and visual, memory, and speech disorders has been noted. The drug accumulates in the body. PCP also can cause general anesthesia at high doses, which in turn can lead to dangerously high body temperatures (up to 108 degrees), blood pressure so high it can cause a stroke, breathing can cease, or a prolonged seizure period. Both PCP and ketamine can also cause a prolonged state resembling paranoid schizophrenia.

sources:
Kuhn, Cynthia, Scott Swartzwelder and Wilkie Wilson. Buzzed : the straight facts about the most used and abused drugs from alcohol to ecstasy. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.

portions reprinted from:
"PCP" Britannica.com. Vers. 2001
1999-2001. Encyclopædia Britannica.
1 Sep. 2000
(http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu="60321"&tocid="0"&query=pcp)

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