Embalming Fluid-Soaked Marijuana
New High of New Guise for PCP?
By July Holland
The trend of smoking marijuana soaked in embalming fluid is gaining popularity throughout the United States. The syndrome of intoxication looks nearly identical to that seen following phencyclidine (PCP) use, with agitation, disorganized speech and thoughts, and diminished attention. The author believes that this new trend in drug use involving marijuana also presents a resurgence in PCP use.
Several Case Reports
The first case involves a 28 year old African American male who arrived via ambulance to Bellevue ER for a psychiatric emergency. On admission, he was naked, disoriented to self, place and date, and was grossly psychotic. He referred to himself as “Allah,” “Justice,” and “Jesus.” Vital signs were normal. When asked if he had any drug allergies, the patient replied, “Yeah, wet.” The patient was alternately confused, then agitated, speaking of the coming of the Messiah. He appeared to be actively hallucinating, frequently looking over his shoulder or to his right as if he heard something.
After receiving 2 mg. of Ativan, the patient was able to state his name, and said that he had come on a bus from Philadelphia to Manhattan in order to make a rap album. He was grandiose about his connections to rap stars in New York City. He said he had disrobed on the bus in order to show the passengers that he was a “Native American,” and not a “mixed up American.” He was preoccupied with aliens, surveillance cameras, and robots. He also talked about twins and clones, referring to the “invasion of the double-mint twins.” He repeated paranoid ideation, stating that the Freemasons had a plot against him, and that the aliens had replaced his eye with a camera in order for him to transmit what he was seeing back to their spaceship. He said voices were telling him to “duck,” and to “look for the red spots.” He was easily distracted during the interview, and was sexually inappropriate with the interviewer.
The patient was re-evaluated the morning after he he was seen in the ER. His psychotic symptoms were gone. He was no longer delusional, was fully oriented, and was able to give personal medical history. He stated that every time he uses “wet” he has similar symptoms. He said, “I become hilarious. I can rhyme better. It makes me emotional, and I feel uncontrollably funny.” He described “wet” as being readily available in Philadelphia, where a small glasine envelope of tea leaves soaked in embalming fluid is sold for five dollars. He explained that he often mixes the leaves with marijuana. He said he was unaware that the tea leaves may contain PCP.
PCP and embalming fluid seem to be historically and semantically intertwined. The term “embalming fluid” was used to refer to PCP in the seventies, considered by some to be a marketing ploy. Embalming fluid has reportedly been used to cover the smell of PCP in order to evade drug-sniffing dogs. Many Internet postings mentioning “wet” or “dank” include the possibility that the fluid will contain PCP. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Marijuana Reality Check Kit, an online source of information about marijuana, warns of pot being spiked with other illicit drugs such as cocaine, crack, PCP and embalming fluid.
Workers at an adolescent drug treatment center in Olathe, Missouri estimated that 25% of their patients had used “wet” (known locally as “dank”). Barbara Banks, assistant director of the facility, cited the low price and availability of “wet” and reported that “dank houses” were beginning to appear in the region. An intake interviewer and counselor for a drug treatment center in Angleton, Texas reports seeing tree patients whom he feels were permanently afflicted from the habit of smoking “wet.” He described short-term memory loss, lethargy, lack of motivation, and a decrease in spontaneous speech. He likened the syndrome to one he has seen due to long-term inhalant abuse.
A young man in Connecticut cut his wrists and drank floor stripper while intoxicated with “wet.” Driven by his psychosis, he reportedly had an urge to kill himself “before they get me.” Police felt the patient was acutely paranoid at the time of his arrest. Psychiatrists documented the patient as being agitated and delirious, and said he was having auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations at the time of his initial evaluation. Three days later, during his hospital stay, he was still exhibiting bizarre posturing, but was not quite catatonic. On the fourth day, he was noted to be euphoric, expansive and grandiose. He was giggling frequently, and showed poor judgment and was overly friendly. He offered cash to many staff members.
A 23 year old “wet” smoker in New York City described the high he achieved as feeling incapacitated, and referred to being “stuck.” He was afraid he was going to hurt himself and that others were out to hurt him. He heard a distant male voice calling his name. He knew where he was, but had no idea as to the time of day or the day of the week. He noted often forgetting what he was saying while speaking. He also said he would “lose time” while high. He admitted to being gay, and said he often had unprotected sex with other males while high. He said he would typically feel “out of control,” “horny,” and “elated.”
In summary, it is unclear whether the practice of smoking marijuana or tea leaves soaked in embalming fluid connotes a new type of intoxication, or whether what is currently being observed is PCP intoxication that simply has a new name or gimmick to aid in its allure and sales. More analysis of liquid samples purported to be embalming fluid would be helpful in answering this question. It is possible that there are long-term adverse effects from the practice of smoking “wet.” More reports need to be gathered. Obviously, this is a serious matter of public health. Clearly, intoxication with this drug severely clouds a person’s judgment. This is especially true regarding its effects on “safe sex” practices.