Drug War

Time Magazine Busts Myths About Angel Dust Now That It's in the News Because of Aaron Hernandez

Doesn't give you superhuman strength or make you a cannibal


potential pcp use least of his concerns
Jack Newton/Flickr

Rolling Stone is reporting that Aaron Hernandez, the former Patriots tight end charged with murder, was a regular user of PCP, or angel dust, setting the stage for a good old fashioned drug  panic. PCP has been blamed by authorities for violent behavior and even superhuman strength. Time magazine's Maia Szalavitz busts some of these myths in an exercise of relative objectivity about drugs rarely seen in mainstream media:

PCP leads to cannibalismdecapitations and eye gouging

Myth. Research suggests that, like alcohol, it mainly increases aggressive behavior in those already prone to it. The drug can induce psychotic delusions and paranoid behavior. But most users remain unthreatening in the face of these disorienting experiences, even placid.

PCP gives users superhuman strength — enough to break out of handcuffs

Myth. Police and emergency room personnel are familiar with the bizarre, unpredictable and violent behavior of some PCP users. Their failure to comply with orders and their resistance to being restrained creates the illusion that the drug makes them stronger; some officers have even claimed that the drug gives people the ability to break out of metal handcuffs.

But there's no evidence that PCP actually increases muscle power— the single study done on the subject in mice found a drop in grip strength among animals given the drug. And, scientists say, there are no plausible mechanisms to explain how PCP could affect strength.

Read the rest of the article here.

Taking exceptional, and unrepresentative, cases of drug use and drug-induced behavior and treating it as if it's the norm is standard fare for a media that's always ready to buy in to the myth of drug as destructive force. It's not true, but it makes for sensational stories. Check out Jacob Sullum on the 5 best drug scares of 2012 here, and Reason TV's discussion with neuroscientist Carl Hart, who says misconceptions about how drugs affect people have created destructive and ineffective drug policies, below:


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  1. Yay! I’m so excited for a PCP dominated news cycle.

    Man jumps out of third floor window and runs away from police with shin bones sticking out. Man then throws a car at police after being shot 5 times in the chest.

    1. Maybe Hernandez is a T-1000.

  2. So when someone punches through my windshield, it’s actually a terminator? Well there’s a downer for me.

  3. I don’t remember much, but I’m 90% sure I didn’t eat anyone’s face.

    1. At least it would’ve been low carb and high protein if you had.

    2. I’m positive I’ve never eaten anyone’s face off after smoking wet, or have an appetite at all. I’m pretty sure I didn’t want to move either. Sure there are the hallucinatory effects and it obviously deadens pain, but it’s hard to imagine how a drug that causes anesthesia in moderate doses could send someone into a hyper-strength berserker rage.

      It’s like they take the side effects of various drugs and combine them into some sort of non-existant murder-fear cocktail.

  4. He was probably on PCP. Broke every bone in his hand and wouldn’t feel it for hours. There was this guy once, you see this scar?

    The Patriots are fucked without Hernandez. I would laugh except that he probably killed people. Ah, fuck it, I’ll laugh anyway.

    1. He was probably on PCP. Broke every bone in his hand and wouldn’t feel it for hours. There was this guy once, you see this scar?

      I would have been so disappointed if you had missed this, but I knew you wouldn’t.

  5. Time Magazine Busts Myths

    That’s gotta be the first time those words have appeared in that sequence in print.

  6. 1978 called

  7. Time magazine’s Maia Szalavitz busts some of these myths in an exercise of relative objectivity about drugs rarely seen in mainstream media:

    Hell try never seen before in Time magazine.

    Time has been one of the worst producers of drug hysteria in the mainstream media.

    1. However, Readers Digest will forever hold the title for Worst Ever.

    2. When are they going to get around to busting the myth of satanic ritual abuse?

  8. PCP did get a bad rap. Back in my patrol days it was always supervisors saying dumb shit like, “Ok, it’s going to take ten of us to wrestle this one down boys.” Now if the officers really knew what they were doing it was one or two officers, maybe three, and one blanket. One throws the blanket over the individual’s head and shoulders and holds on and the other puts on the handcuffs. Worked like a charm on all the bad trippers (PCP, acid, etc.) which in reality weren’t all that numerous in the first place even in the neighborhoods where these kinds of hallucinogens were rather popular.

    1. Usually the poor bastards just froze and when they did resist it was just minimal. It was like lights out time for a nap.

  9. Of course who can sleep on acid, pcp, or even shrooms for that matter? It’s more like “I’m going to kick back and look at the purdy colors under the blanket while they walk me to the patrol car” kind of thing.

  10. I will say however that being issued stun guns, tazers, bean bag shotgun rounds, all kinds of gas distribution systems, all those fun guns, shields, and armor, is far more exciting that to have your sergeant throw you a blanket and say “hey dummy, keep this blanket in your trunk!”

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