Sherm (a shermstick) is a term drug users have coined that refers to marijuana or tobacco cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid, PCP, or both. The name was given to these cigarettes because they look like brown paper Nat Sherman cigarettes. It first became popular in Los Angeles in the early 90’s and is most often used by young people in their teens or 20’s.
What Is PCP?
PCP (phencyclidine) is a synthetic (human-made) potent hallucinogen and mind-altering dissociative drug. Slang terms for this substance include “angel dust” and “rocket fuel.” PCP can induce feelings of strength, power, and invincibility, but it is also an extremely dangerous and addictive drug.
PCP is a white crystalline powder that can be liquified, and is commonly sold in capsule or tablet form. PCP can be abused by snorting, smoking, or ingesting it. Depending on the amount consumed and method of administration, its effects can last for up to 6 hours.
What Is Embalming Fluid?
Embalming fluid is a combination of chemicals containing formaldehyde, ethanol, and methanol, as well as other additives. Funeral homes commonly use it to preserve dead bodies for public viewing, but it has also gained popularity as a drug of abuse because it can reportedly induce a high similar to PCP.
Street names include dip, water, fry, and superweed. Embalming fluid is highly carcinogenic.
What Are Wet Drugs?
Wet drugs, which are dipped in either PCP, embalming fluid, or a combination of the two, come with significant dangers that can be life-threatening. Even people who use one of these mixtures occasionally are at risk of experiencing long-term health consequences from engaging in this behavior.
How wet drugs affect each individual can vary. It depends on factors such as how much of the drug was used and the precise chemical makeup of the substance. Because PCP is manufactured illicitly, there is no consistency to its composition. There may be chemicals not filtered out during the manufacturing process, affecting the severity of risks.
Effects sought after by users of wet drugs include the following:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Adrenaline rush
- Detachment from reality
- Delusions such as superhuman strength
Wet drugs are used for similar reasons as other hallucinogens because those who use them want to escape reality. Although many of the risks of wet drugs are known, they can still be challenging at times to predict. As noted, many of the toxins used in the manufacturing process don’t get filtered out, so the effects and risks can be unpredictable.
Among the common dangerous effects of wet drugs include the following:
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Less sensitivity to pain
- Blackouts or memory loss
- Impaired motor skills
- Respiratory depression or failure
- Schizophrenic-like symptoms, including delusions and paranoia
- Suicide or self-injury due to delusional thinking
- Lung damage
- Brain damage
- Body tissue destruction
- Immediate coma
- Inflammation and sores in the throat, nose, and esophagus
Case studies from 2013 reported on two cases of young adults (a 27-year-old woman and 20-year old man) who were hospitalized with respiratory failure after they had smoked wet marijuana cigarettes. They required rescue therapy with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. After lengthy hospitalizations, both individuals recovered with mild pulmonary function abnormalities.
The authors stated: “We believe that, in young adults with an unexplained presentation of severe respiratory failure, the possibility of exposure to tainted marijuana cigarettes should be considered.”
Treatment for Wet Drug Abuse
Like other dangerous and intoxicating drugs, wet drug abuse should first be addressed using a medically supervised detox. Although withdrawal symptoms from PCP and embalming fluid are not usually life-threatening, they can be highly uncomfortable, thereby presenting a higher risk of relapse. Withdrawal symptoms of wet drugs include intense cravings, disorientation and confusion, and anxiety and depression.
Also, people seeking treatment for wet drug abuse do so in an inpatient or residential treatment facility. Around-the-clock care and support help keep patients from relapsing in the first weeks of recovery, a very vulnerable time. In treatment, patients have the opportunity to learn a variety of coping skills to help them recover, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, group therapy, peer support.
A comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment program, such as those offered by Just Believe Detox and Believe Recovery, provides individuals with the needed tools to regain control of their lives and get started down the road to a substance-free life.