PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction: Effects & Treatment

Phencyclidine—commonly known as PCP—is a dangerous illicit drug.1 According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 2.3% of Americans ages 12 and older have used this illicit drug at some point in their life,2 with around 183,000 using it in the past year.2

This page will discuss PCP, its health risks, and treatment for PCP addiction.

What Is PCP (Phencyclidine)?

Considered a dissociative drug, PCP causes feelings of detachment, and a person using it will often experience visual and auditory distortions.1 Phencyclidine was originally developed in the 1950s for legitimate medical use as anesthesia, but its serious side effects, including hallucinations and delirium, led to the cessation of its medical use.1

PCP is found in tablet, liquid, powder, crystal, and capsule forms, and depending on how it is formulated, it can be smoked, swallowed, and snorted.1

Marijuana joints or tobacco cigarettes dipped in liquid PCP are sometimes referred to as “dippers.”1

Other common street names for PCP include:1

  • Angel Dust.
  • Ozone.
  • Rocket Fuel.
  • Embalming Fluid.

PCP is listed as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act.1 This Schedule II classification indicates that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers PCP a drug that has a high potential for misuse and dependence.4

PCP Effects & Dangers

PCP has intense effects and exposes a person to potentially serious consequences.1

When someone smokes PCP, they typically will feel its effects in about 2 to 5 minutes, while someone swallowing PCP will start to feel the drug in 30 to 60 minutes.1 Typically, the short-term effects of PCP last from 4 to 8 hours, but some people have reported subjective effects up to 48 hours after the last dose.1

Possible effects and risks of PCP include:4

  • Hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.
  • Difficulties with thinking.
  • Anxiety.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Fast, shallow breathing.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Sweating.
  • Memory loss.
  • Difficulty moving.
  • Speech problems.
  • Numbness of the hands or feet.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

The effects of PCP can vary widely depending on the dose and concentration of the PCP as well as someone’s general health and nutrition.5

Can You Overdose on PCP?

It is possible to experience a PCP overdose, which is often referred to as PCP toxicity. Some of the possible PCP overdose signs include:6

  • Confusion.
  • Agitation.
  • Muscle rigidity.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

A PCP overdose can be life-threatening and requires emergency medical assistance.6

In recent years, reports of PCP mixed with fentanyl—a powerful synthetic opioid—have emerged.7 The presence of fentanyl greatly increases the risk of overdose.8 If involvement of fentanyl or other opioids are suspected in an overdose, quick administration of Narcan (naloxone) may restart someone’s breathing, buying crucial time for emergency services to arrive.9

Is PCP Addictive?

Yes, regular use of PCP may lead to addiction in some people.1 The clinical term for PCP addiction is a phencyclidine use disorder.10

Like most addictive substances, PCP use increases dopamine activity in the brain.5 Dopamine is involved in reward and motivation, leading researchers to believe the action PCP has on this neurotransmitter likely reinforces use. This may contribute to continued use as well as the development of phencyclidine use disorder.11

Signs of PCP Addiction

For someone to be diagnosed with a PCP use disorder, they must be evaluated by a doctor or trained healthcare professional utilizing the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). Displaying a pattern of PCP use that leads to clinically significant impairment, as demonstrated by having at least 2 of these following signs within the past 12 months would result in a positive diagnosis:10

  1. PCP is used in greater amounts, or for a longer period than was originally intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire, or repeated unsuccessful attempts, to cut back or stop using PCP.
  3. A great deal of time is spent on obtaining PCP, using it, or recovering from the effects of its use.
  4. There are strong cravings or urges to use PCP.
  5. Recurrent use of PCP results in the failure of the person to fulfill significant role obligations at home, work, or school.
  6. PCP misuse continues despite the consistent or recurrent interpersonal or social conflicts that are caused or made worse by its use.
  7. Important social, recreational, or occupational activities are given up or significantly reduced by the person in order to use PCP.
  8. There is recurrent use of PCP in situations where it is physically hazardous (such as driving).
  9. PCP use continues even though the person knows that the drug is negatively affecting an ongoing or recurring physical or mental condition.
  10. Developing tolerance to PCP. In other words, higher or more frequent doses are needed to produce the desired effect or using the same amount of PCP leads to markedly lower levels of intoxication than it previously did.

PCP Addiction Treatment at AdCare

Those with a phencyclidine use disorder may benefit from professional help. Treating PCP addiction follows the same treatment path as other types of substance use disorders, which often includes a combination of:12

  • Behavioral therapy,
  • Participation in peer support groups.
  • Psychoeducation.

PCP rehab rarely involves medical detox,13 and there are currently no medications approved to treat PCP addiction.4

AdCare Treatment Centers provide evidence-based treatment within outpatient and inpatient drug rehabs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Call today to begin the rehab admissions process. Our compassionate admissions navigators can explain how to use health insurance for addiction treatment and answer other questions.

You can also verify your insurance coverage using the confidential .

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