It's all still vivid in Norman's mind. There was the night his friend "got high" on the hallucinogenic drug phencyclidine - PCP - jumped through a wooden door and could not even feel the bleeding gash on his head. Later the youth, wearing slippers in the snow, tried to walk to a hospital. He didn't feel the cold either.
Then there was the time Norman, himself a PCP user, had to be pulled from a lake where he almost drowned. He forgot where he was, stopped swimming, and didn't even feel himself going under.
Armed with a host of stories such as these describing what it's like to live in a PCP "drug dream world," 24-year-old Norman -- whose real name was not disclosed and other residents of the Second Genesis rehabil itation program in Bethesda told a Senate subcommittee yesterday that the only way to curb the rampant use of PCP among youths is to stiffen the penalties for PCP trafficking and to regulate the distribution of the chemicals used in making the drug.
The Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency is considering legislation that would increase the maximum penalty for the sale of PCP from a 5-year to a 10-year prison term.
The proposed legislation would also require manufacturers and suppliers of the chemical Piperidine - a key PCP ingredient - to file detailed reports on its sale with the Justice Department.
According to drug experts, PCP has nearly replaced marijuana within the past three years as the most popular and easily accessible of euphoria-inducing hallucinogenic drugs used by young people. An estimated 7 million persons, most of them between 12 and 25 years old, have reported using the drug. Last year, about 4,000 PCP cases were treated in hospital emergency rooms according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The Washington area, along with Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, has one of the nation's severest PCP problems, according to law enforcement officials. Montgomery County, where drug pushers are likely to find a steady market among the county's affluent youths, has been cited as a leading center for PCP production and consumption.
"You could just walk down the block" to find Genesis at yesterday's hearing.
Recently, however, PCP has moved from being the drug of "the young, rich and bored" and into the inner city, officials said.
One of the Second Genesis youths told the Senate panel that PCP users often joke that the initials D.C also stand for "Dust Capital of the world" since PCP on the streets is frequently called "dust" or "angel dust."
The drug usually distorts the sensory perceptions of its users, creating, for example, an inability to feel pain or heat or cold. So, there are numerous examples of PCP users walking directly into freeway traffic or inflicting wounds on themselves.
One incident involved a young man who methodically pulled his own teeth out with pliers while under the influence of the drug, according to testimony presented yesterday by Sgt. Michael A. Guy of the Los Angeles Police Department.
There were about 100 deaths last year related to PCP use, and institute spokesman said.
Compounding the PCP problem is the widespread availability of most of chemicals used in its manufacture and the proliferation in the past three years of "back room laboratories" - usually garages or private residence where PCP traffickers concort the drug that later finds its way onto school grounds.
Recently, the production of PCP appears to have shifted into the Virginia suburbs. Drug Enforcement Administration officials say they have uncovered six PCP-producing operations so far this year: two in Fauquier County: one in Fairfax County and one in Prince George's County.
Maryland recently increased the penalty for PCP trafficking from a maximum jail term of five too 10 years.
Covicted PCP manufacturer Gus Tsavalas told the Senate panel of how he and other manufacturers, using a formula simpler than a cook-book recipe, would use ordinary kitchen pots to mix the necessary PCP chemicals. Most of the chemicals needed are readily available, he said.
Most manufacturers obtain the necessary Piperidine, which is produced only in limited amounts for the rubber and fiberglass industries, through the black market or by setting up bogus rubber or fiber glass-related firms, Tsavalas said.
For $5,000, said Tsavalas - who is now cooperating with federal drug officials - he could make about 50 pounds of PCP. Each pound would then sell for at least $5,000. It would only take about a day's work.
Some PCP manufacturers produce a sort of "dust" which is sprinkled onto mint or parsley leaves, and then smoked. Other times, the leaves are dipped into a liquid form of PCP.
Use of PCP "is so widespread now," said one Second Genesis resident, that the problem can be curbed "only by stopping the manufacture of the chemicals" used to make the drug.
Most of the former users said they never paid much attention to the drug education programs in their schools that showed the destructive side effects of PCP. "You always had the feeling this was never going to happen to you," said one youth.
Most of the Second Genesis residents said they suffered from memory lapses and an inability to concentrate or speak coherently for months after they stopped using the drug.
"The ability to do mathmatical problems or even read a book," is just not there, one resident recounted. "You feel you have the mentality of a 3-year old . . . You're thinking is so twisted up."