Today’s marijuana is often much more powerful than the pot baby boomers smoked in the 1960s and 70s. This worries a lot of addiction professionals in view of the upcoming votes in several states to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
An even more dangerous trend is extracting extremely concentrated THC—the principal psychoactive agent in the cannabis plant—in a process known as dabbing or enhancing the effect of marijuana by lacing it with other substances which is referred to as “wet” or “fry” by users.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “wet” marijuana is typically sprayed or soaked with embalming fluid or laced with phencyclidine (PCP).
“Embalming fluid is a compound of formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol, and other solvents,” explains the DEA statement. “The percentage of formaldehyde found in embalming fluid ranges anywhere from 5 to 29 percent. The percentage of ethyl alcohol, the psychoactive ingredient found in alcoholic beverage, varies anywhere from 9 to 56 percent. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, it is common for marijuana to be laced with PCP and/or embalming fluid, both of which produce a hallucinogenic effect. Cigarettes soaked with embalming fluid trend to burn slower, thereby increasing the chance for a prolonged high.”
Now, embalming fluids can be found in morgues and funeral homes, of course, and they can be purchased directly from industrial suppliers. Some go to frightening lengths to acquire embalming fluids.
According to a report in the Washington Post, police secured a human brain from a vacant trailer-home in Penn Township, PA in July. The Associated Press reported that a Pennsylvania man was charged after police say he sprayed fluid used to embalm the brain on marijuana that he then smoked. State police charged the 26-year-old with abuse of a corpse and conspiracy.
"The defendant related that he knew it was illegal to have the brain and that he and (another man) would spray the embalming fluid on 'weed' to get high," wrote Trooper John Boardman, the investigator. The suspect, who was in jail when the brain was discovered, reportedly even named the brain “Freddy.”
The DEA warns that exposure to embalming fluids carries serious health risks.
“Effects from exposure to embalming fluid include: bronchitis, body tissue destruction, brain damage, lung damage, impaired coordination, and inflammation and sores in the throat, nose, and esophagus. It is extremely carcinogenic.”
So, inhaling smoke laced with such fluids is definitely a really bad idea. While ingesting embalming fluids can cause cancer, PCP can cause serious hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Overdoses can make PCP users violent or suicidal, making them a danger to themselves and to others. Repeated PCP use often leads to psychological dependence, craving and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior.