Originally intended and used as an intravenous anesthetic, phencyclidine or PCP, currently has no accepted medicinal uses in the United States. PCP is a synthetic dissociative drug, meaning that it makes you feel detached from yourself and distorts your sensory perceptions.
It was discontinued from licit medicinal uses due to patients suffering from hallucinations and delirium after use.
PCP is illegal to use, buy, or sell in the United States. It is manufactured illegally, however, and marketed as a liquid, powder, crystal, tablet, or capsule
Signs of PCP Abuse and Addiction
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.3 million Americans over the age of 12 used hallucinogens in the month before the survey in 2013. The young adult population seems to abuse PCP most frequently, as the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Study of 2014 found that 0.8 percent of 12th graders had abused PCP at some point in their lifetime.
PCP has both short- and long-term side-effects associated with its use. PCP interferes with the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is responsible for perceptions of pain and of the surrounding environment as well as memory and learning. Dopamine and serotonin – responsible for mood regulation, behavior, and pleasure – are also affected by PCP abuse. PCP, therefore, disrupts the brain’s natural chemicals and alters the reward circuitry. The effects of PCP use on the body are wide-ranging and impact a variety of the body’s systems.
Short-term side effects of PCP use
- Decreased Pain Sensations
- Elevated Heart Rate
- Impaired Cognition
- Impaired Learning
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Irregular Respiration
- Lack of Coordination
- Mood Swings
- Raised Body Temperature
- Sense of Invulnerability and Strength
- Slurred Speech
- Toxic Overdose and/or Death
- Violent Behavior
Short-term side-effects may last from four to eight hours.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that mood disturbances and particularly anxiety symptoms were present in half of those admitted to the emergency room with problems relating to PCP abuse. The risks for accidental death as well as suicide also goes up with PCP abuse. Side effects and their severity depend on the method of ingestion as well as the amount taken and whether or not it was mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Injecting or snorting PCP sends the drug rapidly across the blood-brain barrier, for example, greatly increasing the risks for overdose and increasing potential side effects.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) cites smoking as the most common method of abusing PCP, as the drug is often mixed with herbs or leaves and smoked to mask its strong flavor. You will likely feel the effects of PCP within two to five minutes if smoked, between 30 and 60 minutes if swallowed, and almost immediately if injected. Mixing drugs or alcohol with PCP will also heighten all risk factors, as the drugs may interact with each other. According to the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) of South Carolina, five out of six overdose deaths related to PCP abuse in the United States involved more than one drug.
Chronic/long-term side effects of PCP use
- Auditory Hallucinations
- Damage to the Central Nervous System
- Difficulty Thinking
- Extreme Weight Loss
- Liver Function Abnormalities
- Memory Loss
- Muscle Rigidity
- Impaired Decision Making
- Speech Problems
- Severe Depression
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Weight Loss
- Withdrawal from Social Situations
In 2010, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported 53,542 people were admitted to emergency departments for issues related to PCP abuse. A PCP overdose is potentially life-threatening. If you notice any of the following, seek immediate medical assistance: catatonic state, hallucinations, high blood pressure, psychosis, violent behavior, convulsions, severe lack of coordination, or loss of consciousness. Someone using PCP can also be dangerous or violent and should be handled or approached with extreme care.
How to Help a Loved One Addicted to PCP
If someone you know is addicted to PCP you already know how dangerous the situation they are in is. PCP is a strong, powerful hallucinogen that does significant, sometimes permanent, damage to the brain, nervous system and body. The safest path for someone addicted to PCP is to get help in a structured environment.
While some drug addicts make a choice to enter rehab, it’s often a family member or loved one that play a key role in getting into treatment. When addicted to drugs, one’s decision making power is often clouded greatly as serving the addiction is the brain’s focus. A friend of loved one often becomes a transformative factor that introduces alternatives such as detox and rehab with as few barriers as possible.
For more information on how a loved one can help someone struggling with drug addiction, visit our friends and family portal. It’s often a friend or family member that picks up the phone and reaches out for help, and we’re here to offer that help.
PCP Treatment and Therapy Options
If you, or your loved one, are abusing or dependent on PCP, help is available. Drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms may be best managed through a medical detox process in a specialized facility offering round-the-clock medical care. Medications may even be used to smooth the process. Evidence-based treatment models include the most current scientific research as well as clinical experience and personal preferences in order to determine the best plan for each specialized circumstance. Behavioral therapies are effective in reversing negative behavior patterns and thoughts and boosting positive self-images and self-esteem.
Getting PCP Addiction Treatment
The Recovery Village offers a safe and luxurious environment where recovery takes place in tranquil and private accommodations with various amenities and offerings. Group, individual, and family therapy and counseling sessions are all vital parts of recovery. The Recovery Village also provides alumni support groups to help sustain families and loved ones during and after treatment. Physical and emotional balance are restored with nutritious diet plans and numerous recreational, educational, and peer support group opportunities.
Call us for a free assessment. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your call.
PCP Overdose Symptoms & Treatment
PCP was introduced in the 1950s as an anesthetic to be used in surgical procedures. It’s role as an anesthetic was short-lived as the side effects far outweighed its intended benefits.
PCP is considered a hallucinogenic drug with sedative or anesthetic properties as well as some stimulant effects. Hallucinogenic drugs are mind-altering drugs that distort reality and perceptions. This class of drugs can be highly unpredictable, creating a wide range of effects.
On the street PCP can be found in several forms including capsules, tablets, powder and liquid. Of all the available forms of PCP white powder or liquid are the most prominent. PCP is ingested, injected, smoked, or snorted. It is also often added to other drugs such as marijuana joints or nicotine cigarettes and called “dippers” or “love boats.” Marijuana joints laced with PCP are also called “killer joints,” “super grass,” “wets,” “waters,” “lovelies,” and “fry.” PCP is also sometimes mixed with 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, MDMA, or ecstasy. This is sometimes marketed as “elephant flipping” or “Pikachu.”
Street names for PCP
- Angel Dust
- Black Dust
- Crystal T
- Embalming Fluid
- Goon Dust
- Happy Sticks
- Lethal Weapon
- Magic Dust
- Peace Pill
- Peter Pan
- Rocket Fuel
- Tic Tac
Unfortunately, limited research exists on the addictive qualities of hallucinogens. It is currently accepted that PCP can be addictive, and terminating repetitive use will lead to withdrawal symptoms. Specifically how addicting it is in relation to other drugs isn’t clear.
Regardless of the spectrum of withdrawal symptoms one may experience, the important thing is that PCP use is extremely dangerous and carries with it a wide variety of negative effects on the body, both short-term and long term.
Chronic abuse of PCP can lead to a psychological and physical dependence on the drug, creating compulsive drug-seeking behavior and drug cravings. Repetitive use of PCP creates a physical dependence, and the brain will become tolerant to its effects, needing more of the drug each time in order to produce the same outcome. Users will then feel out of balance without PCP and seek the drug in order to maintain a feeling of normalcy. Excessive amounts of time will be spent obtaining, using, and recovering from PCP.
Addicts will also suffer from withdrawal symptoms when PCP is not in their system; symptoms include depression, drug cravings, changes in appetite, anxiety, and lack of energy. Chronic PCP abuse can lead to serious and permanent brain damage and health concerns, so early intervention is important.
PCP abuse can also mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia and cause psychosis as well as make symptoms of mental health disorders worse. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that as many as 50 percent of all drug abusers also suffer from mental illness, and half of those suffering from a severe mental illness also abuse substances. Those suffering from a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder simultaneously are considered to have co-occurring disorders that require integrated and specialized treatment in order to promote a successful recovery of both disorders.
When to Seek Help
Some of the warning signs to watch for if you suspect PCP abuse include:
- Aggressive Behavior
- Blank Stare
- Decreased Coordination
- Dilated Pupils
- Drop in Work or School Performance
- Financial Difficulties
- Interpersonal Relationship Issues
- Impaired Sensory Perceptions
- Inability to Communicate Effectively
- Legal Trouble
- Outbursts of Violence
- Rapid and Uncontrollable Eye Movement
- Unpredictable Behavior
- Weight Fluctuations
- Withdrawal from Social Situations
Limited research exists in relation to physical addiction to PCP and while physical dependence is possible, it is less common. Those reporting PCP withdrawal symptoms largely indicate psychological symptoms including depressions, anxiety, PCP cravings, hunger and an increase in sleep.
Severe depression and anxiety can lead to suicidal thoughts or behavior, and withdrawal from a highly addicting drug like PCP should be done in a controlled environment, preferably with medical supervision.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.