Drug Use

What is PCP?

What is phencyclidine or PCP??

PCP (phencyclidine)—also known as angel dust, ozone and rocket fuel—is a synthetic hallucinogenic drug known for its dissociative (often negative) psychological effects. Street names for PCP are angel dust, ozone, oregano, embalming fluid, peace pill, dust, and rocket fuel. While PCP can evoke feelings of strength, invincibility and power, it is an extremely dangerous, and often addictive, drug.

PCP is a white or colored powder that is typically sold in tablet or capsule form. Users abuse PCP by snorting, smoking or ingesting it. (When smoked, users apply PCP powder to dried plant leaves such as mint, basil or marijuana.) Depending on the amount ingested and route of administration, the effects of PCP can last for up to 6 hours.

In addition to feelings of supremacy and invincibility, PCP users experience dissociative states, or feelings of mental numbness and detachment. Many adverse psychological effects may also occur, including schizophrenia-like symptoms (delusions, disordered thinking, hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety) and mood disturbances (anxiety, panic attacks). Severe effects include seizures, coma, violence, suicide or death. When PCP interacts with other drugs, especially depressants, it can lead to coma or respiratory distress.

A variety of physical side effects occur while using PCP. In the short term, low to moderate doses cause a rise in blood pressure; an increase in breathing and pulse rate; shallow breathing; numbness of the extremities; loss of coordination; flushing; and profuse sweating. When taken in higher doses, drops in blood pressure, respiration, and pulse rate; nausea and vomiting; rolling of the eyes; loss of balance; dizziness; and drooling may occur.

PCP also can cause long-term, serious effects that may last up to a year after drug use. They include memory loss, depression, trouble thinking and speaking and weight loss.

PCP withdrawal symptoms

PCP withdrawal symptoms tend to be severe and can occur within eight hours of discontinuing use. Due to the way PCP clings to the brain and fatty tissues, it can take longer to detox than with other hallucinogens. The severity of the withdrawal reinforces PCP addiction because it is stressful and difficult to quit. PCP withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Heart rate increases
  • Cravings
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Delirium
  • Audio and visual distortions and hallucinations
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Loss of concentration
  • Confusion
  • Flashbacks

How is PCP taken?

PCP is most commonly taken in tablet or capsule form, but it can also be snorted or smoked. When smoking PCP, users usually add it to marijuana for an enhanced effect.

Can PCP addiction be treated?

Treatment for PCP addiction usually involves some form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, medical interventions (such as medically supervised detoxification) and addiction support groups. Aftercare or follow-up treatment is also vitally important to long-term recovery.

PCP addiction can be quite difficult to overcome, particularly because the long-term effects it causes commonly lead to relapse. Because of this, individuals suffering from PCP addiction are strongly encouraged to seek professional help.

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