Teen-agers in Baltimore County are being warned by police and Students Against Drunk Driving about a powerful drug that is a mixture of the volatile hallucinogens LSD and PCP.
Police have also asked teen-agers to help them track down the distributor of the lethal mixture.
Five students in the county were hospitalized in February and another two in March, according to Michael Gimbel, coordinator of the county Office of Substance Abuse. Two of the students remain hospitalized at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.
The drug is being sold for $5 to $10 per "tab," Gimbel said. A tab is a piece of paper that has been soaked with the drug. Some bear pictures of cartoon characters and users simply lick or eat the paper, he said.
PCP, or phencyclidine, is a powerful animal tranquilizer that sometimes induces violent behavior in humans. It can cause mental and emotional disorders.
LSD produces hallucinations and delusions.
One victim remembers eating six tabs of what he thought was LSD. He doesn't remember much else.
He does remember jumping off a 20-foot-high balcony. And he remembers waking up hours later, strapped to a hospital bed.
But the Perry Hall student has no recollection of the eight men it took to restrain him in the basement of his home, or of the ambulance ride to the hospital.
"I learned my lesson from taking that stuff," he said. "I'll never take it again."
The 17-year old student was among 30 members of the county's SADD chapter who met in Towson last week to discuss ways to prevent the spread of LSD use among county teen-agers.
The meeting, organized by Gimbel, was prompted by the recent hospitalization of the youths who became delusional, paranoid and violent after ingesting the volatile mixture.
The Perry Hall boy, who called himself "Jay," attended the meeting at Gimbel's request and sat quietly in the back of the room.
"We don't want to scare or panic anyone, but we felt it was important to get you leaders together," Gimbel told SADD members. "I feel you do the best job of getting the information to your peers."
"PCP is the most violent, deadliest drug we know," he said. "You can punch your fist through a wall, break your hand, and not feel a thing."
And, though Gimbel says he is convinced that the distributor of the tabs is responsible for mixing the LSD with PCP, "why they're doing it beats the hell out of me."
"Usually, in the past, LSD has been pure," he said. "What's happening is extremely rare and very dangerous. And we're trying to stop it before someone dies."
"We're very concerned," said county police Detective Tess Williams, appealing to students for help in tracking down the drug's distributor.
"LSD when used with PCP can be lethal," she told students. "We have some information, but we need more. We need your help.
"You're not being rats . . . you might be saving someone's life," she said.
Alison Geare, a senior at Randallstown High, said, "I think we should make students aware . . . so maybe they'll think twice before taking anything."
"I know a lot of people who are worried," said Tom Green, a senior at Franklin High. "But some don't care about it and they need to. A lot of them really screw themselves up."
After the meeting, Jay said that he was depressed and suicidal during the week that followed his trip. He's now meeting with a support group at school, and is feeling "all right."
The experience he said, is making it easier to say "no" when drugs are passed around.
Lt. Karl Beers of the Baltimore County Fire Department was with county paramedics on March 8 when they were called to subdue the Perry Hall youth.
"It was just a frightening experience," he told students at the meeting. "The key word is violence."
Though Jay was eventually taken to the hospital without serious injury, PCP users have been known to commit violent acts of self-destruction, Beers said.
One user gouged out his own eyes. Another killed himself by drilling through his head with a power drill multiple times, Beers said. In 1983, a Randallstown PCP user decapitated his 13-month-old son.
"You cannot reason with a person on PCP," Beers said. "His lights are on, but nobody's home. There is absolutely no relationship between what you say and what he does."
Though the popularity of LSD has waned since its peak in the late 1960s, Gimbel theorizes that teen-agers' fascination with the '60s may contribute to a resurgence of interest in the drug.
"They're walking around with tie-dye shirts on, letting their hair grow long," he said.
"These kids are the products of the kids of the '60s, who are the parents of the '80s. . . . All these kids hear about is how great the '60s were. And LSD was the peaceful drug, it was the love drug."
Gimbel said he put faith in the SADD members' ability to get the message of dangerous drugs to their peers.
"I don't believe that fear motivation works at all," he said.
"You have got to get to them deeper . . . the only hope we really have is through the kids themselves."