Toxicity

There is little evidence that long-term PCP use in adult humans (Luisada, 1981) and monkeys (see DHHS Fourth Triennial Report to Congress on Drug Abuse and Drug Abuse Research, 1992) results in any detectable organ or cellular damage. In monkeys that had been self-administrating PCP for eight years, tests of all organ systems, clinical chemistries, physical exams, and X rays revealed no differences between PCP-experienced and control animals that were the same age but had little drug experience. In humans, the form of toxicity most commonly associated with PCP use is a change in behavior. There have been a few accounts of bizarre and/or violent behavior associated with PCP use. Such reports have diminished since the preferred route of self-administration has shifted from oral (pill) to inhalation, which offers the users an ability to more carefully control the dose.

In monkeys, PCP produces a calming, tran-quilizing effect. The immediate effects in humans are not seen in the hospital or clinic. Instead, the PCP user arrives in the emergency room several hours after PCP use, possibly while suffering acute withdrawal effects. Approximately twelve to fifteen hours after PCP was last taken, monkeys become agitated, violent, and aggressive. It is possible that many of the early reports of human violence and the PCP-related homicides were related to the withdrawal effects. It is necessary to determine the time course of unusual behavior and important to know the time of drug intake, although this is difficult to establish because the patient often loses memory of the drug-taking event.

Another unusual aspect of PCP toxicity is that users often complain of unpleasant effects long af ter chronic use has stopped. These reports could be caused by the fact that PCP is highly fat soluble and becomes stored for long periods of time in the body fat. During periods of weight loss, there is subsequent mobilization of fat-stored PCP into blood and brain tissues. Recent laboratory research with rats supports this hypothesis by demonstrating the ability of food deprivation to increase PCP levels in blood and brain (Coveney & Sparber,

Increasing data has become available on the effect of drugs of abuse on the offspring of dependent mothers, and it appears that the offspring of PCP users may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of PCP than their adult counterparts. Golden and coworkers (1987) studied ninety-four PCP-ex-posed newborns and ninety-four nonexposed as controls; they found neurological abnormalities such as abnormal muscle tone and depressed reflexes in the exposed group. Another study followed twelve exposed infants for eighteen months and found a high percentage of medical problems (Howard et al., 1986). At six months the infants were irritable and hyperresponsive, and later they showed varying degrees of abnormalities in fine-motor, adaptive, language and social skills. A recent study of the offspring of forty-seven PCP abusers and thirty-eight nonusers found that neurological dysfunction was common in the infants of PCP-abusing mothers (Howard, Beckwith, & Rodning, 1990). There was greater apathy, irritability, jitters, and abnormal muscle tone and reflexes. Follow-up interviews at six and fifteen months, using the Gesell Developmental Exam, revealed poor language development and a lower developmental quotient in general; however, the long-term outcome for PCP-exposed newborns is unknown.

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