Smoking “Wet”

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.




Driving After Marijuana Use

July 10, 2014

By Eric Sarlin, M.Ed., M.A.,
NIDA Notes Contributing Writer
National Institute on Drug Abuse
The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction

Nearly 1 in 6 high school seniors who responded to a 2011 survey reported that, within the past 2 weeks, they had driven a motor vehicle after using an illicit drug or drinking heavily. Nearly 1 in 4 said they had recently ridden in a car with such a driver. Altogether 28% had put themselves at risk, within that short time frame, by being in a vehicle whose driver had been using marijuana or another illicit drug, or had consumed 5 or more alcoholic drinks. These rates had all risen nearly 20% in only 4 years, due almost entirely to an increase in driving after smoking marijuana.

The students’ responses also disclosed that, among 12th graders, driving after marijuana use has become more common than drinking and driving. About 1 in 8 (12.4%) reported that within the past 2 weeks they had driven after using marijuana, whereas 1 in 11 (8.7%) had driven after drinking alcohol. The prevalence of high school seniors driving after using marijuana had risen sharply from 10.4% in the 2008 iteration of the survey, while that of drinking and driving had declined from a peak of 16% in 2002. These changes parallel overall trends in students’ use of marijuana and alcohol.

Alcohol’s detrimental effects on road safety are well known, but it has been less clear whether marijuana produces similarly dangerous effects. Although the survey did not capture whether the teens were under the influence of alcohol or marijuana at the of any traffic incidents they reported being involved in, two of its findings underscore that marijuana use is associated with key indicators of dangerous driving. The high school seniors who drove after marijuana use and after heavy drinking were similarly likely to have had accidents (26.9% and 30.2%, respectively) and to have received traffic tickets or warnings (42.1% and 43.2 %, respectively) during the 12 months prior to taking the survey. The rates for these misadventures were about twice those of high school seniors who did not use these substances (16.3% for accidents; 20.2% for tickets or warnings).

Further analysis of the data revealed that 12th graders who were female, with two parents in the home, good grades, or strong religious commitments, were less likely to drive after using marijuana or alcohol. Those who reported above-average truancy, spent more evenings out for recreation, worked more hours, or drove more miles were more likely to engage in drugged driving.

African American students were more likely to drive after using marijuana than students of other races, but were not more likely to drive after drinking alcohol. Parental education, geographical region, and population density had no significant bearing on students’ attitudes toward drunk or drugged driving.

Vehicle accidents remain the number one cause of death among young Americans, and substance-impaired driving is one of the main culprits. Citing the data in their report, Dr. O’Malley and Dr. Johnston conclude that drunk and drugged driving is widespread among adolescents across schools and regions, and call for measures to reduce such risky behaviors.

Such efforts are already underway. A recent report prepared at NIDA’s request by experts in research, policy, and law enforcement under the auspices of the Institute for Behavior and Health has recommended to evaluate and improve drugged-driving laws, data collection, and educational programs, and to develop and standardize methods for drug testing in drivers. The goal of these proposed measures is to meet the target of the National Drug Control Strategy of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to reduce drugged driving by 10% by 2015.


O’Malley, P.M.; Johnston, L.D. Driving after drug or alcohol use by U.S. high school seniors, 2001-2011. American Journal of Public Health 103(11): 2027-2034, 2013.

My Biggest Fear!

I have been a bundle of fears since I was a kid. I was convinced for a long time that there were monsters under my bed waiting to grab me by the foot when I got up to get a drink of water. My daddy gave me a flashlight one time on my birthday, but of course the batteries were always dead. I think I kept leaving it on all night under my covers. I just couldn’t handle all the creaking under my bed and the hollowing out my window. We had a lot of trees around our property, and on really windy nights long talons would dance around, reaching for me, trying to take me away.

It was really rough growing up. I was fat and not very good at sports. I usually ducked at a baseball pitch. I cringed whenever I played dodge ball. I couldn’t get the volleyball over the net. Badminton was just plain stupid. I was always last at track. And I never even considered trying out for football. I didn’t have a lot of friends in school. Yeah, a few, but they were like me, and we just ended up getting bullied together. It was a very painful way to go through school. One of my friends, Ronnie Benner, must have had enough. I don’t know the whole story, but one day he went up to the top of the Shikellamy Lookout over the Susquehanna River and jumped.

I managed to remain alive. I avoided most of the bullies. My plate quickly filled up with extra activities such as stringer photographer for high school sports, local radio station announcements, the yearbook staff, and a local history project. I used to hang out in the soundproof booth in the library and record DJ shows and radio plays. I was able to hide in away high school. Tucked away from all my enemies, whether they be fellow students, thugs who dropped out, or family. The worst thing that happened to me one day after school was being chased down by three bullies, one of which was Ron Mull. Ron’s sister, Lynn, was running with them at the time. The guys held me while Lynn beat the shit out of me. It was so humiliating for two reasons: first, a girl was beating me up, and, two, I had a crush on Lynn.

It didn’t take me long to discover marijuana and alcohol. I started hanging out with a whole new breed of friend. Ones who didn’t pick on me or chase me down the street threatening to kill me. These friends were handing me beers and joints and wanted to sit around and talk. We complained about bullies, and girls, and parents, and cops, and teachers, and having to work. We were convinced everyone was crooked and no one cared about the average kid on the street. We concluded it was our job to fight back. We took what we wanted. We skipped school. We threw rocks through the windows of abandoned warehouses and hunks of ice and snow at passing cars. We stood on railroad overpasses and pissed on vehicles going by. We were showing the world what’s what.

My alcohol consumption and pot use grew out of control. I knew I was using more than those around me. I just couldn’t get through a day without it. I took a hit when I got out of bed. I had bottles of Miller High Life stashed under rocks in cool running streams. Then there was grain alcohol and Vodka picked up for me by Russ, my “of age” best friend. He and I drank and smoked pot day and night. I think at one point my reality and my drugged fantasy got turned around, and I wasn’t sure what was real. It got so bad that I committed a series of felonies while high and got caught. Through a plea bargain, I was able to serve three years in a state prison, then seven years on state parole.

Unfortunately, my drug and alcohol use continued to be a problem. I was an addict and an alcoholic with no idea what to do about it. Days ran together. Weeks became months, and months became years. Nothing changed. I’ll quit tomorrow! But tomorrow never came. I lost cars and apartments and two wives. My youngest son stopped talking to me, despite having a baby. I’m a grandpa. I have yet to hold him. Little Skyler. The good thing is I came to realize all of these consequences and situations were my own doing. After a three-week stay at a drug and alcohol rehab, I signed on to the the idea that I am, all the way down to my toes, an alcoholic and a drug addict. I have accepted this as a fact in my life. And I have come to rely on Jesus Christ as my higher power. I have died with Him in His crucifixion, and I have been risen with Him to live again as a new creation.

My biggest fear is that I will one day return to the frame of mind where I feel justified to imbibe. To grab a joint and “relax.” You know, just one. A chance to let go and chill out. I just know where I’ve been, and I fully understand alcoholism and drug addiction. There is no safe situation in which I can use drugs or get drunk. I can only counter this fear by staying plugged in to the true definition of addiction, to remember what it has cost me in my life, and to realize that the only outcome to a lifetime of drug and alcohol addiction is death. And that is my biggest fear.

Is Marijuana a Safe Recreational Drug?

I started smoking marijuana at age eighteen immediately after graduating from high school. I did not drink or get high during my high school years. I did fairly well academically. I tested at an IQ of 127. I was very ambitious, outgoing, creative and focused. I wanted to be a published author, and also enjoyed photography and working in local radio broadcasting. My extracurricular activities included a local history project, sports photography and yearbook. I was on the debate team. I lettered in tennis in j-v. Having some issues with self-worth, and not liking confrontation, I stayed away from things like running for class president.

Marijuana has been in the news a lot lately. It seems every month a new state passes legislation that makes pot legal for medicinal purposes or, sometimes, for recreational use. Interestingly, the possession and sale of marijuana remains a federal crime. With all of this legislative activity, I can’t help but wonder if lawmakers are opening Pandora’s Box. Is marijuana a safe recreational drug? Can it lead to use of other substances? Is it addictive? How hard is it to quit smoking pot if you’ve been smoking it in large quantities or for a long time? Let’s start this discussion by talking about what pot is and what it does to those who use it.

Marijuana is the smokable part of the cannabis plant. It is usually sold in small plastic bags. When the drug comes from a medical marijuana facility, it may be packaged in a pill bottle or a vacuum-sealed package. When the resins of this plant are collected and compressed into blocks of dark brown material, that is called hashish. Most of the world hashish is made in Morocco. It is far stronger than marijuana. Hashish ranges from medium brown to almost black, and may have a sticky or crumbly consistency.

The dark, sticky oil of the resin or marijuana plant may also be sold in small bottles. This is called hash oil. It can be added to a marijuana cigarette to make it more potent, or it can be smoked in a pipe, a piece of aluminum foil or spoon. It can also be added to a tobacco cigarette to make it intoxicating. I smoked marijuana so heavily that when I ran out and needed to get high, I would scrape the pipe or bowl to scoop out concentrated amounts of resin. I would then smear the resin on cigarette paper and smoke it in the pipe. It was very potent, and I would sometime pass out from a big hit of the resin.

So let’s get right to the major question: Is marijuana addictive? Groups that are in favor of medical marijuana or broad legalization sweep this question under the carpet. The fact is that, yes, it is addictive. You are unlikely to hear this fact on the nightly news, in the newspaper or anywhere else. Marijuana is addictive. Of all the people that use marijuana, about one in eleven will become addicted. I was one of those who became addicted. When a young person begins smoking marijuana in his or her teens, that person has a one in six chance of becoming addicted. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2010, more than 360,000 people were admitted to treatment for addiction, with marijuana being listed as the primary drug they were abusing. That is, they went into rehab because of marijuana and its effects on their bodies and minds. Twenty-eight percent, or approximately 103,000, were between twelve and seventeen years old. Forty-three percent were under twenty-one.

Because of greatly increased potency in marijuana, mental distress, panic attacks and other problems have also increased. In 2011, there were nearly half a million visits to the ER related to problems with marijuana use. Common symptoms were severe nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia. According to the 2013 World Drug Report, an estimated one in fifteen high school seniors is a daily or near-daily user of cannabis. For parents who used to smoke pot on the weekend or at parties, they can understand what daily use by a high school student would do to his ability to do his school work or to retain what he hears in a class lecture.

Some people argue that because marijuana does not have dramatic withdrawal symptoms like alcohol or heroin, it is not addictive. I see two errors with this thinking. One is that the pot being smoked today is far more potent than it was twenty or thirty years ago. That makes withdrawal a far different matter. Also, it is simply not true that quitting marijuana does not put you at risk for withdrawal. The most likely withdrawal symptoms include irritability, insomnia, anxiety, nightmares, anger and fluctuating emotions, headaches, depression, loss of appetite, and craving to use the drug. The degree to which the withdrawal symptoms are serious depends on how much pot the person was smoking, for how long they used the drug, and their own unique physical and emotional makeup.

I think a better measure of addiction is whether or not the person experiences harm from the use of the drug but is so compelled to use it and the cravings for it are so strong that he uses it anyway. This was true for me. I used marijuana in large amounts from the age of eighteen until the age of 48. My cravings were so strong that I used the drug despite failing health, difficulty making bill payments while buying the drug, inability to concentrate on the job as a paralegal, strained or broken interpersonal relationships, bounced checks, and an inability to sleep or relax without getting high. An addicted cannabis user will continue to get high despite the occurrence of these types of consequences. It is common for a heavy pot smoker to stop caring about the damage and just focus on staying stoned. This applies to heavy marijuana use, as well as crack cocaine or meth or pain pills.

Marijuana is not the harmless, safe substance many might like to think it is, especially for those under age thirty. According to some of the Internet research I conducted, neuroscience has now shown us that the brain continues to develop until the late 20s, and using drugs while the brain is still developing can influence how it develops and result in moderate to potentially significant problems down the line. When adolescents use marijuana, for example, the white matter of their brains can undergo changes that are similar to the brains of individuals with schizophrenia. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that marijuana smoking in adolescence significantly increases the risk for eventually becoming psychotic and/or developing schizophrenia. This risk is even greater for people who had psychiatric symptoms before their first experience with marijuana and those with schizophrenia in their families. And furthermore, more and more data are confirming the fact that marijuana users are also at increased risk for developing anxiety and depression later in their lives, as well as having memory deficits.

All of this proved true in my own life. I had no idea I was suffering from an underlying psychiatric problem. I didn’t know I had bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and major depression. The constant use of alcohol and marijuana kept the symptoms hidden. As you’ve probably heard it said, I was self-medicating. Marijuana masked some of my difficulties, and distracted me enough that I didn’t understand what was going on. Not only did my psychiatric problems increase, my cravings for pot greatly increased. I knew no other life. It had become perfectly normal for me to be high. Anything else seemed abnormal. So when I hear people say marijuana is perfectly safe, I strongly disagree. I know what it did to me over the years, and I’ve seen it do the same thing to others. I went to my five-year high school reunion. I ran into people I used to get high with. You probably won’t be shocked to learn that they had not grown in any significant manner, and were still smoking pot.

Back when I went to high school in the mid 1970s, about thirty percent of the students I knew were using marijuana regularly. They called it “partying” or “getting stoned.” It wasn’t hard to recognize when someone started using pot. Almost instantly, their overall attitude changed. Many who had been good students, engaged and talented, started to withdraw, and adopt a passive aggressive viewpoint. Regular pot use by them, from what I observed, caused a kind of lethargy. Activity levels dropped off drastically. They developed a “who cares” attitude, and became non-compliant. The look on the face of most pot users is sort of vacant and dull. Their eyes glaze over and don’t seem to focus. If you’re not also high, conversation with them is particularly difficult.

Typically, marijuana users tend to believe pot is harmless. That there are far more dangerous drugs they could be using. In fact, pot is “all natural,” so it must be okay. Pot users do not see the gradual increase in tolerance and a need for smoking more and more. Once a pot smoker is convinced he or she cannot live without marijuana, this is addiction. When the person uses even though he or she promised themselves they wouldn’t, this is compulsion. It is the nature of addiction that addicts don’t believe they are ill. They do not have a problem. Addiction is a physical, mental and spiritual disease. It doesn’t matter what the substance is.

I remember years ago realizing I was getting high too often, and I told my “dealer” I might need to go to rehab. He laughed, saying I would be bullied in the facility for merely being a marijuana user. I told him I was having a very difficult time stopping, that I was spending all my money on pot, that my interpersonal relationships were suffering, and that I was a wreck when I wasn’t high. This was a sure sign of addiction and compulsion. Not only was I psychologically dependent on pot, I had also become an alcoholic, drinking nearly a fifth of Vodka per day. My behavior became so antisocial that I ended up serving a three year sentence in state prison. It is definitely my opinion, based upon research and my personal experience, that chronic pot smoking leads to many problems. It is not simply a harmless “natural” recreational drug. It has the potential to create emotional, physical and financial problems, and often leads to using other substances once smoking pot becomes boring or doesn’t do the trick anymore. Marijuana is not a safe recreational drug.

Moving Forward

There are few things as difficult as being asked to move out of your mother’s house following a relapse. I faced that hardship today. I moved in with mom and dad in 2008 following a period of drinking and getting high. I was about to be homeless. I had resigned from a position as a paralegal in Philadelphia, and was working as a house painter and carpenter’s helper in Bethlehem, PA. I met someone who smoked marijuana on a daily basis, and gave in to his suggestion that I needed to “relax a little.” He handed me a pot pipe. From that day on, I smoked weed every day. Morning, noon and night. Didn’t take much at all to get me to pick up where I left off years ago when I quit drugs and alcohol and started attending AA meetings.

My weed smoking habit grew to more than a quarter ounce a day. I stayed away from alcohol for nearly five years, but was constantly getting high. I found I could not function without marijuana. I was unable to fall asleep, and was plagued by panic attacks. On one occasion, I fell victim to severe anxiety while shopping for groceries. I had to leave a cart full of groceries and run out of the store. I could not predict when these attacks would happen, and was at a loss to explain them. But marijuana seemed to stop the anxiety. It was also beneficial for my back pain and muscle spasms. I joked that pot was my natural muscle relaxer. What I didn’t realize was that I was self-medicating. That I had an undiagnosed underlying mental illness. I was tormented, and yet had no idea what was bothering me.

I continued to “try” sobriety a number of times over the years. I truly believe I was troubled in my spirit by my behavior and my lack of conscious contact with God. I often would make the comment to myself that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. Although I had this fleeting thought, I lacked the power and the commitment to do anything about it. I am sure I felt somewhat hopeless. If only I could have reached out to God at that time. Something kept me powerless. These periods of temporary sobriety would last a few months to a few years, only to slip through my fingers.

This continued on and off for quite some time. I eventually stopped getting drunk and high, but I began abusing opiates and anti-anxiety pills. This happened despite my attending church and claiming to be delivered from addiction by Jesus Christ. I started teaching weekly Bible lessons at a local county prison, testifying that I was in recovery. I gave lessons on fear and love and living in the Spirit. At times, I was aware that I was living as a hypocrite. I kept praying to God to keep me out of trouble. I tried bargaining with the Lord. “God, just let me get through this day and I promise I will never abuse pills again.” I wanted to quit on my own terms. Striking a bargain with God is one thing that never works.

So I am at a point where I am moving forward. I finally feel a sense of hope regarding my future. My relationship with God has been strengthened by my becoming humble and honest. It’s obvious to me that I cannot resist the temptation to use drugs when left to my own devices. I am powerless. I am prone to live in the flesh, feeding my sin nature. The Big Book tells us that no human power could relieve us of our alcoholism. It goes on to say, “But there is one who has all power. That one is God. May you find him now.” It feels so good to be able to return to the spiritual path I walked years ago, before giving in to my self will run riot. It is time I stop living in fear, trying to escape from life by anesthetizing myself, and running from responsibility. No matter what has happened to me in the past that might have lead to abusing drugs and alcohol, I realize I am responsible for my own recovery. I cannot try managing my cravings on my own. It doesn’t work.

Thanks to my higher power, Jesus Christ, my impulse to use drugs or get drunk is suppressed. Recognizing that I need a power greater than myself is at the root of my being able to change and to resist impulsive behavior. I have been given yet another chance to live. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to move forward.