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What Is PCP?

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a sedative narcotic, also classified as a hallucinogenic narcotic. Developed for use as a surgical anesthetic, it was taken off the market in 1965 for its horrifying side effects. Street use of the drug became popular for a short time in the late 1970s, but few users of PCP exist since the middle of the 1980s, due to the same unpredictable side effects.

Created shortly after World War II, PCP was used for a few years and removed from use, due to its hallucinogenic and delusional side effects. It mimics schizophrenic episodes for those who use it, even medicinally, as prescribed. It was reintroduced in the late 1950s and production ceased permanently in 1965, because it had many other serious side effects.



The Basics

What it is, what does it look like, how is it taken, what happens with abuse?

PCP is a Schedule II narcotic, as classified in the US by the federal government. It falls into sedative narcotic and hallucinogenic narcotic categories. PCP has a sharp chemical taste and is easily dissolved in water or alcohol, two of its methods of ingestion. Other methods include using the powdered form of PCP sprinkled on a tobacco or marijuana cigarette. Other methods are to grind the pills into powder and snort the powder, swallowed in a drink or tablet form, to inject a dissolved liquid form of PCP, and use of the oil “base” of PCP as a “dip” for a cigarette or joint.

A NMDA receptor antagonist, PCP has a sedative effect on the brain. However, because it is also a dissociative sedative, it has other properties that make it both dangerous and unpredictable in action. Its effects may take time to be felt, and other times it will be fast-acting, which is one reason for its unpredictable reputation. Other reasons that PCP is considered as an unpleasant and unreliable drug are some of the side effects that can occur. These are violent outbursts, irrational behaviors, emotions and thoughts, delusions and/or hallucinations and paranoia.

Effects of PCP

What it does, the physical and mental effects while high, what happens in the brain, aftereffects of using PCP.

The immediate effects of PCP use are similar to drinking for the observer. The user will appear to be intoxicated, or slightly high (like pot). They will exhibit symptoms that include red or puffy eyes, slurred speech, uncoordinated body movements and unbalanced gait. They may have some mild agitation and/or irritation. These are the symptoms that will most often be seen in users under the influence of small quantities of PCP. Users will experience a sense of detachment and separation that may become more pronounced and lead to possible suicide ideation and attempts.

Larger doses will affect users in more severe and obvious ways. They will become extremely agitated and volatile, to the point of sometimes extreme violence, against others or even themselves. Their blood pressure may drop, with pulse and breathing rates becoming shallow. Profuse sweating occurs, as well as drooling, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and up and down movement of the eyes. At very high doses, seizures, coma and death can occur. Psychotic symptoms are common, along with superhuman exhibitions of strength, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.

PCP Dosage and Amounts Taken

How much PCP is in a dose? What is a lethal amount or overdose?

Doses can vary widely, due to the unstable conditions under which PCP is manufactured. Doses are indeterminate and this increases the risk for overdose and/or a bad trip. No safe dose of PCP can consistently be given, due to the side effects that may be more or less severe, depending on the user and other factors that are impossible to safely determine. A lethal dose or overdose can be the same amount that was safe for the user the day or week or month before.

Dangers and Long-Term Effects of PCP Abuse

Risk of overdose, increased heart rates and high blood pressure, what are the long-term effects of use of PCP?

A feature singularly present in PCP abuse is the detached state of the user. Because they feel cut off from physical and emotional sensations occurring to them, they may behave in ways indicating they do not inhabit their physical body. This delusion is such that they remain detached emotionally and mentally. Delusions created by PCP use may become permanent. Symptoms of delusion and hallucination are similar to those of schizophrenia.

Behaviors of superhuman strength are commonly reported with PCP use. Incidents of attempting to stop cars are reported, as are occasions of attempting to fly, to jump off from high buildings or bridges and others. These reports may be exaggerated, but there is good evidence that the nature of the anesthetic properties of PCP are potent enough to cause many types of delusional thinking that includes acts of strength unseen with other drugs.

PCP Addiction and Tolerance

How addictive is it? Is addiction a myth? Do I have a problem? Signs and indications of PCP abuse and dependency.

Using PCP regularly creates the cycle of addictive drug abuse with PCP. Because of its addictive properties, PCP is one of the more dangerous drugs. Regular use can become like Russian Roulette. The unpredictable effects of PCP create greater risk, with ongoing use, of an overdose or psychotic experience for the user.

PCP Overdose

What are the signs of an overdose? What to do if you spot symptoms of a PCP overdose.

Because it is both a sedative and has hallucinogenic properties, risks are great with PCP for overdose to take either course and/or both courses of overdose of these two types of drugs. As a sedative, overdose can be cause for heart attack or stroke, due to fluctuations in respiration and/or breathing. Heart palpitations and increased respiration is common with use, thus risk is high. Other risks are hallucinations, delusions, muscles cramps that can lead to broken bones, mania and severe depressed states are high risks for suicide and/or serious physical injury or harm.

If you or someone you are with show signs of a drug overdose, call emergency services immediately. The drug emergencies resource page has a list of US Poison Control Centers and addiction resources that may be of help in an emergency. We also recommend that you consider seeking treatment once the emergency is over.

If you or someone you are with show signs of a drug overdose, calling your local emergency line is recommended. Our drug emergencies resource page has a list of US poison control centers and addiction resources that could help you in an emergency. We also recommend that you consider seeking treatment once the emergency is over.

Mixing with other drugs

What are the effects of mixing PCP with cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, heroin, tobacco and other drugs?

Mixing PCP with other drugs is very high-risk behavior. Due to the unpredictable nature of PCP side effects, many risks that do not exist with other drugs of abuse become more prevalent with PCP.

Drug Tests and Detox

What are the detection times? How long does PCP stay in my system? Will I pass a PCP drug test?

PCP can remain in the system of the user for several days, and even longer with ongoing, continued use. Depending on the type of drug screen being given, it may be detected for up to 30 days after use. Various factors will determine whether it stays in the system of the user and for how long.

Legality, The Laws of Possession, Use, and Distribution

Is PCP illegal? If I get caught with PCP am I going to jail? How long are sentences? What is the difference between trafficking and possession? Are any PCP charges felonies?

Because it has no legal use in the US or UK, PCP is an illegal substance that is not manufactured in either country. Sentencing will depend on circumstances surrounding the possession of PCP, amounts in possession and various factors that are determined from state to state in the US. Most charges will be for felony possession, since there is no prescribed use of the drug.

PCP in the News

While it was not been a popular drug for over 20 years, PCP is becoming popular again, as a substance known as “wet”. This is a liquid formulation of PCP which is either soaked into mint or marijuana leaves or into which a cigarette is dipped for smoking. A new trend with younger users, it has again been seen in emergency rooms and psychiatric wards across the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PCP used for in the medical field?

How do I know if I am smoking PCP?

What is the risk of having a bad trip on PCP?

How can I help someone who has overdosed?

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