Doctors, EMTs concerned over rise in PCP cases - KCTV5

Doctors, EMTs concerned over rise in PCP cases

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People are sharing videos on social media this week of erratic behavior that includes people running through Kansas City streets, naked or partially clothed.

The rash of videos shows people around the metro who are possibly high on the drug phencyclidine, commonly initialized as PCP. Drug emergency responders, doctors and addiction experts say they’re seeing more and more cases of people on the drug.

Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital say, when a shipment of PCP arrives in the metro, they know it. They see the number of patients high on the drug rise every summer.

“We definitely run PCP patients daily. Our crews have been saying they've been seeing them daily, running a large amount,” said EMS Assistant Division Chief Brenda Paikowski.

In one such case from this week, drivers took video of a woman rolling around in the street near Northeast 47th Street and North Cleveland Avenue. Her flailing and screaming blocked the intersection and blocked traffic.

Ambulance crews often use restraints or sedatives to help get out of control PCP users to the hospital. 

“We are extremely concerned about the patient's safety, bystander's safety and our crew’s safety,” Paikowski said. “They are agitated, violent, often they are in a state of delirium, so it's impossible to have a rational conversation.”

Once at the hospital, doctors and nurses take extra steps to protect the patient and themselves by using powerful sedatives and antipsychotic medication.

“It basically causes both hallucinations and also anesthesia or pain killing properties,” Medical Director for University of Kansas Hospital Poison Control Center Stephen Thornton said of the drug.

Based off of experience, doctors and EMTs say it appears more PCP shipments are making it to the metro in the summer.

“It will hit the streets and you'll see a lot of problems with it,” Thornton said.

“It’s more readily available,” said Program Director for C-Star Treatment Program Heartland Center for Behavioral Change Don Wells.

Very few who use the drug seek treatment. At Heartland Center for Behavioral Change, only 3 percent of their clients are PCP users.

“It is an addictive substance, but it's a psychological dependence rather than a physical addiction,” Wells said.

PCP was developed in the 1950s to be used as an anesthetic in hospitals. It causes hallucination, amnesia and loss of coordination. At high doses, PCP can cause seizures, coma or death. 

He urges anyone using PCP or who has a loved one who is using it to get treatment. The drug is associated with such violent behaviors that often children are immediately removed from homes if it’s known that a parent uses PCP.

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