Drug Use

What is PCP? The Complete Guide

What is Phencyclidine or PCP?

PCP (phencyclidine)—also known as angel dust, ozone, supergrass, and rocket fuel—is a synthetic hallucinogenic drug known for its dissociative (often negative) psychological effects. This means it acts on your brain (central nervous system) and changes your mood, behavior, and how you relate to the world around you. Street names for PCP are angel dust, ozone, oregano, embalming fluid, peace pill, dust, and rocket fuel because it looks like white crystalline powder. While PCP can evoke feelings of strength, invincibility, and power, it is an extremely dangerous drug.

PCP is a white or colored powder typically sold in tablet or capsule form. Individuals use PCP by snorting, smoking, or ingesting it. (When smoked, users apply PCP powder to a dried leafy material such as mint, basil, or marijuana.) Depending on the amount ingested and route of administration, the effects of PCP can last for up to six 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; Psychosis, 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 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

  • Invulnerability

How Does PCP Work?

PCP works by binding to the brain’s neurotransmitter receptors, which alters the way the brain perceives pain and pleasure. PCP also interferes with the brain’s ability to regulate body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. These effects can lead to serious health problems, including coma and death.

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 dependence usually involves 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 dependence 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 dependence are strongly encouraged to seek professional help.

Helping Those on the Road to Recovery from PCP Use and Substance Use

At Caron, we understand the unique challenges of PCP dependence and substance use. We are here to help you or your loved one every step of the way on the road to recovery. Our comprehensive approach to treatment starts with an evaluation and medically supervised detoxification followed by inpatient and/or outpatient treatment, depending on the intensity of care needed. We also offer a wide range of support groups, treatment programs, and aftercare services to help you or your loved one maintain sobriety in the long term. If you or someone you know is struggling with PCP dependence, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. We are here to help.

Continue Learning About What is PCP? The Complete Guide

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