HOUSTON – Houston is the largest metro area in the country that has a serious and deadly problem with impaired drivers. But these drivers aren’t just drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
Roughly one in five DWI cases in the city of Houston involve phencyclidine, better known as PCP or Angel Dust, in the drivers’ system, the study revealed. The growing issue is now being called a “public health crisis," by officials with the Houston Forensic Science Center.
The article was co-authored by Dr. Dayong Lee, the Houston Forensic Science Center’s toxicology manager, and Dr. Peter Stout, HFSC’s CEO and president, who is also a toxicologist.
“This is scary,” Stout said. “These people when put behind the wheel of a car endanger our community, our families and our children. We have an obligation to make people aware of this danger.”
“Some of the patterns we’ve seen, 16% of DUI’s we see in Houston has PCP on board,” Stout said.
PCP distorts a person’s perception of reality and is the second most popular drug found in impaired drivers in Houston, according to local health officials.
The analysis revealed law enforcement recovered 615 blood samples from DWI arrests that contained PCP between 2013 and 2018, which is 16% of the total number. This means PCP ranked only behind marijuana.
“Among those PCP-positive cases, 7% were analyzed by HPD Crime Laboratory, 49% by Reference Laboratory 1, 11% by Reference Laboratory 2 and 33% by (Houston Forensic Science Center,” researchers wrote.
According to local health officials, data from the past six years showed that 85% of people who tested positive for PCP were black, and 77% of them were men. Research says the average age of people with PCP in their system was 37.
There was also an increase in women and younger people using PCP who were not black.
One of the key conclusions of the study was that PCP-positive DWI cases rose 3.4-fold from 2016 to 2018, and researchers wrote that the “risk assessment of PCP-impaired driving for prevention efforts (was) increasingly more critical."
Houston is not the only city where researchers have seen a spike in PCP-positive DWI cases.
“Today, significant PCP use is largely concentrated to a handful of urban areas, including Houston, New York and Washington, D.C.,” officials wrote.
You can read the full study here.