PCP (Phencyclidine)

In 2020, just over 7 million American adults (those aged 12 and above) were classified as current users of a hallucinogenic drug, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) publishes. Today, PCP is considered an illegal hallucinogenic drug that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports is mostly produced in illicit laboratories.

This article will go into further detail about what PCP is, dangers of misusing it, and how to get help for PCP addiction.

What is PCP?

PCP is a water-soluble, white crystalline powder in its pure form; however, after it is “cut” with other substances and readied for distribution on the street, PCP generally appears brown or tan in color and gummy or powdery. Sold clandestinely as a powder in small foil packages, in liquid form, as a tablet or capsule, or applied to herbal material like marijuana, mint, oregano, or parsley, PCP is snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed. Tobacco or marijuana cigarettes may be dipped in PCP as well. The California Journal of Emergency Medicine reports that PCP is inhaled 70 percent of the time it is misused.

Some street names for PCP include:

  • Angel dust.
  • Love boat.
  • Rocket fuel.
  • Amp.
  • Ozone.
  • Happy sticks.
  • Tic tac.
  • Wack.
  • Supergrass.

According to the DEA, high school students and young adults make up the majority of the PCP user population.

PCP Intoxication and Side Effects

PCP is considered a dissociative drug as it makes individuals feel disconnected from reality, their surroundings, and themselves. Smoking or injecting PCP causes the drug to take effect rapidly in a matter of minutes while snorting or swallowing it may delay the onset of intoxication for up to a half-hour, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reports. Most of the effects of PCP start to wear off in about 4-6 hours, but it can take a full 24 hours for the drug to completely clear the body.

Long-term PCP use can trigger psychotic effects that may mimic those of the severe mental disorder schizophrenia, and these effects can last up to a month. PCP can have different effects depending on how much is taken at once. In low or moderate doses, PCP can cause:

  • Hallucinations.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Disorientation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Hypertension.
  • High body temperature and sweating.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Distortion of self, time, space, and sensory perceptions.
  • Impaired concentration.
  • Disorganized thinking.
  • Numbness.
  • Euphoria.
  • Sense of calmness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Feelings of invincibility.
  • Heightened sex drive.

In higher doses, PCP side effects can include all of the above as well as:

  • Agitation.
  • Paranoia.
  • Aggression and violent outbursts.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Memory loss.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Sedation.
  • Involuntary eye movements.
  • Muscle rigidity.
  • Fear and panic.
  • Exaggerated strength.
  • Potentially dangerous spikes in central nervous system functions like respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
  • Paranoid delusions.
  • Catatonia.
  • Speech difficulties.
  • Depersonalization.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), around 75,000 people in the United States received emergency medical care for a negative reaction to abusing PCP in 2011. Mixing PCP with other drugs, particularly others with similar central nervous system depressant properties like opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, can greatly increase the possible hazardous side effects of the drug. Since PCP is an illegal drug produced in clandestine laboratories, individuals may not be sure of its exact chemical makeup as the drug can be “cut” with other toxins to stretch it out. It can be close to impossible for people to know exactly what is in the version of PCP they are purchasing and taking, making it risky and dangerous.

PCP can cause individuals to act in a manner that is out of character and erratic and highly unpredictable. Accidents and injuries may occur. Self-harming and violent episodes are not uncommon, and individuals may present a danger to themselves or others while under the influence of PCP.

Dangers of Perpetuated PCP Abuse

Woman experiencing withdrawal or comedown

PCP may be taken most often sporadically as a “party” or “club” drug, but regular use can cause a person to build up a tolerance to the drug. When this happens, a person will need to take higher doses each time to get the desired reaction. Over time, the brain can become dependent on PCP and a physiological dependence can form.

Once addiction is present, it is common for the following to occur:

  • Thoughts become consumed with how to get PCP, use it, and recover from it
  • Individuals may put themselves in physically hazardous situations
  • Work, home, and social responsibilities can become neglected
  • Individuals may become withdrawn and secretive
  • Mood swings and erratic behaviors can occur
  • Physical and emotional health can decline
  • Continuing to use PCP despite the damage it is causing
  • Financial problems as a result of funding their PCP misuse

Chronic PCP use can also cause persistent difficulties with depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and trouble thinking and concentrating, which can continue for up to a year after stopping the drug, NIDA warns. GINAD reports that individuals battling PCP addiction are at a heightened risk for suicide compared to the general population.

Help for PCP Misuse and Addiction

Woman with doctorAs an addictive drug with difficult emotional withdrawal symptoms, PCP is most safely processed out of the body in a secure detox facility that employs trained healthcare providers to help manage the symptoms. Physical side effects like dizziness and nausea can be managed with medications during medical detox, while emotional distress can be calmed through supportive, therapeutic, and pharmaceutical methods. Individuals who attend medical detox while the body processes the PCP out of its system are able to achieve a stable physical level before entering into a more comprehensive addiction treatment program.

Complete programs may include therapy, counseling, support groups, holistic measures, relapse prevention tools, anger management and life skills training, and family support programs, among other offerings. Since some of the side effects of PCP addiction can linger for an extended period of time, continued support, counseling, and therapy after completing a treatment program are highly beneficial. There are many different types of treatment programs with multiple options designed to suit each individual specifically. Families and individuals are encouraged to work directly with addiction treatment specialists to decide on an optimal recovery plan.

Addiction Treatment in Florida

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