Phencyclidine, PCP, angel dust — all different names given to the same highly dangerous hallucinogenic drug. At its inception, PCP was once used as an anesthetic, but the likelihood for misuse and dangerous side effects quickly overshadowed any initial medical applications. PCP is strictly considered an illicit compound in today’s world — and for good reason.

Despite its innocent name, angel dust is anything but angelic. Recreational users consume copious amounts of the drug in any manner of ways: inhaling, injecting, smoking and more. Once ingested, the hallucinogen binds to the nervous system and blocks neurological impulses and pathways. This is why it earns its title as a ‘dissociative’ drug. When PCP antagonizes receptors in the brain, known specifically as NMDA receptors, it leads to a user developing a detachment with reality.  

Such a disconnect can be vast, with recreational misuse leading to mania and advanced stages of paranoia. It is in this way that PCP differs from other hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD. While a person using LSD may experience visions and dissociation, they are often not at the risk of losing their identity in the process. Users believe that their environment is no longer real, that even the world they occupy is no longer real.

The outlook isn’t wholly miserable. If anything positive can be garnered, it’s that PCP use is at its lowest number in years. Still, the drug is so inherently destructive that we must understand its correlated risks to keep these use and overdose statistics trending downward.

PCP Overdose Effects

PCP effects can begin within five minutes after first use. It can take a bit longer, but its impact will take hold within just an hour or so. While the effects may have a rapid onset, they are known to last for several hours. And, if the dose is high enough, the results can last upwards of two days.

A typical recreational dose of angel dust is around 1 mg. But this amount can be as high as 5–10 mg for users with a built-up tolerance. At this quantity, effects include euphoria, increased energy and hyperactivity, hallucinations, and a general sense of wellbeing. These are the sought-after feelings associated with such an illegal high.

But as the doses grow, so to do the dangerous side effects — and potential for an overdose. At 15 mg, PCP use veers into treacherous territory. Here, users teeter on the precipice of overdosing. Anything above this amount has fatal intent, whether the person intended it or not.

Large PCP doses bring powerful dissociation along with them. These can range from mood swings to suicidal behavior, or paranoia to outright insanity. Not only does the person no longer act like themselves, but they no longer have a concept of self. As frightening or unbelievable as it sounds, the idea of consciousness is an abstract concept on certain doses of PCP. There is simply nothingness.

Before such menacing levels are reached, users are often described as having inflated feelings of vigor or even immortality. Many PCP deaths are because users attempt death-defying actions to fatal ends. Though impulses of invulnerability are common, this isn’t to be mistaken with a prevalent misrepresentation of PCP highs. There is a general perception that PCP turns otherwise docile people into hulking, rage-filled berserkers. This just isn’t the case. Though PCP is undeniably dangerous, this stereotype has long been perpetuated as a scare tactic. The isolated instances of such behavior were almost exclusively due to previous or underlying mental health problems of the user. PCP is scary enough on its own — falsified accounts don’t enhance this narrative.

PCP Overdose Symptoms

An overdose on PCP is characterized by a number of symptoms. Unlike sedatives, painkillers and other classes of drugs with often more muted symptoms, hallucinogens produce overt signs of overdose which are difficult to overlook. Such PCP symptoms include:

  • Decreased or non-existent motor functions
  • Debilitated muscle activity
  • Painful or unusual breathing
  • Harmful delusions
  • Erratic, paranoid thoughts or actions
  • Slowed response time to pain or stimuli
  • Catatonic behavior
  • Heightened body temperature
  • Blank expression
  • Eye twitching

Drug overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

Overdose victims may be unable to express their problems. This is completely understandable, considering they may be unable to recognize they even exist, let alone that something may or may not be amiss. It will often take an observant friend or loved one to recognize symptoms for what they are and get the appropriate medical assistance to intervene.

PCP Overdose Treatment

Upon arrival to a healthcare facility, PCP overdose victims may require sedation and stabilization before full treatment can get underway. Any potential harm to the central nervous system must be mitigated immediately. Without proper care, permanent damage to areas of the brain responsible for problem-solving, memory formation, and information retention can occur. Physicians will closely monitor a patient until the drug is flushed from the system and PCP’s potentially life-threatening symptoms subside.  

Substances like PCP can be addictive and deadly. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder related to drugs or alcohol, there are many resources to help, including rehabilitation facilities like The Recovery Village. Call today to learn more about comprehensive care.  

Visit the following websites to learn about The Recovery Village’s network of rehabilitation facilities. Call today for admissions. Each center is ready to help people learn how to cope with their Ambien addiction and uncover the root causes for their substance use disorder.

  • Orlando Recovery Center: A premier rehabilitation facility in Orlando, Florida that helps individuals recover from addiction and substance use disorders. The center also offers the opportunity to treat co-occurring disorders.
  • The Recovery Village Columbus: Located in Ohio, this facility provides inpatient, outpatient and aftercare treatment for people looking to begin detox. The center provides individualized plans to help patients through recovery while addressing their unique co-occurring disorders or any setbacks that may happen during recovery.
  • The Recovery Village Palmer Lake: In Colorado, this facility offers inpatient, outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment for individuals looking to kick-start their journey to recovery.
  • The Recovery Village Ridgefield: Located right in southern Washington, this facility provides patients with outpatient and aftercare programs. Just 20 minutes outside of Portland, this facility assists individuals who are ready to begin treatment.
  • The Recovery Village: In Umatilla, Florida, this is a rehabilitation facility that provides resources for individuals seeking drug and alcohol treatment. There are inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment programs available for those suffering from Ambien addiction.
  • IAFF Center of Excellence: Specializes in assisting firefighters who struggle with behavioral health problems and addiction. Members can enter the recovery process sooner so they can return back to work as quickly as possible. Inpatient, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs are all available at this facility, where patients can address their Ambien addiction in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Denver Mental Health & Counseling: Denver Mental Health and Counseling by The Recovery Village is a physician-led outpatient center specializing in evidence-based addiction and mental health treatments, offering services such as TMS, IOP, and personalized care for both ongoing and new patients, dedicated to fostering long-term recovery and overall well-being.
  • The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health is a premier physician-led treatment center in South Florida, offering a comprehensive spectrum of services from medical detox to outpatient programs for alcohol, drug, and co-occurring mental health conditions, with a commitment to rejuvenating lives, families, and communities, and facilitating same-day admissions.
  • The Recovery Village Atlanta: Located in Roswell just outside downtown Atlanta, is a 62-bed physician-led treatment facility offering a comprehensive range of services, from medical detox to outpatient care, specializing in alcohol, drug, and co-occurring mental health conditions, dedicated to transforming lives, families, and communities throughout Georgia.
  • The Recovery Village Kansas City: The Recovery Village Kansas City, an 80-bed facility in Raytown just 10 miles from downtown, offers a comprehensive range of evidence-based treatments for addiction and mental health conditions, overseen by physician leaders, and is dedicated to revitalizing lives, families, and communities throughout the Midwest.
  • The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper Health: The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, situated just 20 minutes from Philadelphia, is a leading rehab facility in South Jersey providing comprehensive, evidence-based addiction and mental health treatments, ranging from medical detox to teletherapy, with a dedicated team committed to guiding adults on their path to lifelong recovery.

Medical Disclaimer

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.