What Is A Sherm Stick?

Sherm sticks are an unusual recreational drug made with cannabis joints or tobacco cigarettes that have been dipped into PCP and/or embalming fluid and dried. This produces a covert but potent dissociative drug with powerful mind-altering effects that can pose serious health risks.

People may use drugs for any number of different reasons, including in an attempt to relieve mental or physical pain or boredom, appease peers, enhance performance, or otherwise cope with the pressures and problems of everyday life. And the types of drugs that people, especially young people, choose to take can be equally varied and, sometimes, bizarre and unusual. 

Sherm sticks, for example, are a type of unconventional recreational drug created by taking either a cigarette or a joint and dipping it in embalming fluid, PCP, or both. 

Unlike other, more commonplace drugs of abuse like cannabis, opioids, methamphetamine, or cocaine, the use of sherm sticks, or just “sherm,” is poorly understood by the population at large and even by most medical professionals and law enforcement professionals, making it harder to recognize sherm use and harder still to recognize and treat the complex symptoms it causes. 

What Is Embalming Fluid?

When it comes to sherm sticks, the term “embalming fluid” often refers to the liquid chemical mix used to preserve human bodies for burial, but diverted from legitimate use. Embalming fluid contains such chemicals as formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol (ethyl alcohol), and other solvents and preservatives that are sometimes used as inhalant drugs. 

While extremely carcinogenic and otherwise unsafe for human consumption, embalming fluid has been reported to produce hallucinogenic effects and slow the burn rate of cigarettes and joints, prolonging the resulting high. Street names for embalming fluid include dip, illy, water, and fry. 

What Is PCP?

Phenylcyclohexyl piperidine, also known as phencyclidine, PCP, angel dust, peace pill, ozone, and animal tranquilizer, is a synthetic drug originally developed as an anesthetic in the 1950s. It is currently classified as a Schedule II controlled substance but is no longer used in medicine as it was found to produce postoperative delirium and hallucinations in recovering patients.

However, dozens of designer analogues of PCP were developed in the following decades, some of which can evade typical forms of drug testing. As an illicit drug, PCP and its analogs come in a wide variety of forms that may be inhaled (snorted), swallowed, injected, or, most commonly, smoked. These include a fine white powder, crystals, pressed tablets, capsules, and liquid solutions, often dissolved in embalming fluid.

Like ketamine, PCP acts as a dissociative and hallucinogen, meaning that it tends to distort a person’s perceptions and produce profound feelings of detachment (dissociation) from a person’s external environment or even their sense of self. Reportedly, the drug often produces a “floaty” or energized feeling while making sights and sounds more intense. It’s also well known for triggering intense and prolonged hallucinations or “cosmic revelations,” especially at higher doses. 

Why Mix These Substances With Cannabis Or Tobacco?

PCP is most often smoked rather than taken in other ways. This is because smoking delivers large doses of drugs into the bloodstream very quickly and without any reliance on needles or syringes. Because cigarettes and joints are so readily available, they are an extremely easy, cheap, and unremarkable vehicle for delivering PCP, embalming fluid, or any number of other substances that can be laced into them. 

However, this also means that not everyone who uses tainted cigarettes or joints does so knowingly.  

According to research, the trend of adding PCP to cannabis began at some point in the 1970s. This “wet drug” developed the street name “embalming fluid,” which led drug dealers and consumers to begin using genuine embalming fluid as an ingredient in sherm, a practice that continues into the present day in some regions. 

When combined with cannabis, PCP’s and embalming fluid’s effects can blend with cannabis’s own psychoactive properties, producing profound and unpredictable hallucinations and other physical and psychological effects. 

Street Names For PCP/Sherm

Sherm is reportedly rare outside of certain major cities, and the specific ingredients, production, and terminology around this type of drug varies by region and even on a case-by-case basis. 

Street names associated with sherm-style drugs include:

  • Sherman sticks
  • sherm
  • superweed
  • wet drugs
  • dip
  • fry
  • lovelies
  • wets

Cigars laced with embalming fluid/PCP are referred to as “smurfs.”

Are Sherm Sticks Legal?

Even in states where cannabis has been legalized, sherm sticks are considered an illicit drug whether or not they contain PCP, a PCP analogue, or embalming fluid. This is because legalization only concerns pure cannabis, not cannabis products laced with other substances, with the same being true of tainted cigarettes and other products. 

Note that PCP itself is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, and its analogues are likewise outlawed by the Controlled Substances Act, a federal statute that specifically prohibits any substance intended to replicate the effects of another banned substance. 

Side Effects Of Sherm Sticks

People who knowingly use sherm do so in order to get high and experience something profound and unique, being swept away by powerful feelings of pleasure, detachment, enlightenment, or invincibility that can last between four and eight hours or longer per dose.

However, sherm sticks are not a safe or predictable drug, and their effects can be extreme and damaging. 

Specific side effects that have been reported following the use of sherm sticks include:

  • a blank, absent expression and aimless staring
  • involuntary eye movements
  • coughing and lung irritation
  • elevated breathing rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate
  • reduced sensitivity to pain
  • convulsions
  • visual disturbances
  • hallucinations
  • disorientation and confusion
  • impaired coordination and muscle control
  • paranoia and delusions 
  • memory loss
  • sexual disinhibition
  • agitation
  • violent activity
  • self-harm
  • other abnormal behavior

Research has established strong links between recreational PCP use and physical violence, sometimes resulting in severe harm to oneself or one’s loved ones. There have been numerous reports of people hallucinating while under the influence of PCP and attacking or killing those under their care, perceiving even children to be monsters or demons or mutilating their own bodies, as reported in the Journal of Addictive Diseases

Long-Term Health Risks Associated With Sherm Sticks

Any use of sherm drugs can be unpredictable, dangerous, and even life-threatening. And these risks only increase if the drug is used on repeated occasions or as a regular, chronic occurrence.

Long-term mental and physical health issues associated with the use of sherm include:

  • bronchitis
  • asthma 
  • air way ulcerations
  • other lung damage
  • impaired healing
  • hormone and development problems
  • respiratory failure
  • heart attack 
  • seizures
  • speech difficulties
  • brain damage
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • long-term memory and learning problems
  • social withdrawal
  • chronic psychosis
  • self-harm and suicide
  • abnormal weight loss (wasting)
  • elevated cancer risk

Some of these effects may require immediate and prolonged hospitalization followed by inpatient recovery treatment services in order to ensure the person’s survival. Many of the other lingering effects of PCP on a person’s body and mind can last for a year or more after they stop taking the drug, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center

Are Sherm Sticks Addictive?

Sherm sticks and other forms of PCP are considered to have a high potential for psychological dependence and addiction. These drugs are known to produce cravings and compulsive behavior, with many people reporting that once they start, they can’t stop taking the drug as long as it is available, despite the disturbing psychological and physical effects that PCP/sherm may produce. 

Moreover, people often report increasing their dosage over time in order to maintain or intensify the drug’s effects, despite also increasing their risk of serious negative side effects. 

Treatment Options For Sherm Stick Abuse And Addiction

Sherm abuse and addiction is extremely dangerous and harmful, but it can also be difficult to overcome on your own. If you have been struggling with sherm abuse or any other form of substance abuse, please consider reaching out and getting help from a professional addiction treatment provider like Ohio Recovery Center

At ORC, our highly qualified clinicians provide personalized inpatient care and support for all forms of substance use disorder as well as related mental health disorders like depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia. This includes treatment approaches specifically designed to help those who have experienced issues with dissociative drugs like PCP and ketamine. 

From medical detoxification to psychotherapy, support groups, alternative treatment programming, and aftercare support, your personalized treatment pathway will chart a course to sustainable recovery. 

Please reach out today to learn more.

  1. The California Journal of Emergency Medicine - Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859735/
  2. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - PHENCYCLIDINE (Street Names: PCP, Angel Dust, Supergrass, Boat, Tic Tac, Zoom, Shermans) https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/pcp.pdf
  3. National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) - Fry Fast Facts https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs11/12208/index.htm
  4. The Texas Heart Institute Journal - “Smoking Wet” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3568288/

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: June 3, 2024

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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