Dangers of PCP

Phencyclidine (PCP) is an unpredictable and dangerous dissociative drug.

PCP (phencyclidine) is known as a “dissociative drug,” for its capability to make the user feel detachment from his/her surroundings or self. Originally developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic, medical use of PCP in humans was later discontinued (in 1965) after it was seen that patients in clinical trials regularly experienced negative adverse effects from the drug, including extreme delusions and agitation.

Today, the drug is classified as a Schedule II substance for its high potential for abuse, and it is illegally manufactured and sold on the street by such names including:

  • Angel dust
  • Ozone
  • Whack
  • Rocket fuel

The names “killer joints” and “crystal supergrass” refer to PCP that has been combined with marijuana. The wide variety of street names for the drug reflects PCP’s bizarre unpredictable effects.

What Does PCP Look Like? How is it Used?

PCP commonly appears as a white crystalline powder. As such, PCP is water or alcohol soluble in water or alcohol and has a distinctly bitter chemical taste. The drug may be snorted, smoked, ingested orally (eaten) or injected depending on the user’s preference. PCP may also appear in tablet or capsule forms of a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, but the drug is more commonly seen in powder or liquid form. It can also be sprayed onto dry, smokable leafy matter in a process similar to the manufacturing of synthetic marijuana.

PCP is often consumed unwittingly by users of marijuana or methamphetamine, both of which are found combined with PCP as an additive.

Long and Short-Term Risks of Taking PCP

PCP is abused for its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects on the mind, although its effects are thought to be largely unpredictable and thus highly dangerous. A PCP high may last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Even at low doses, a single use of the drug may produce serious adverse reactions, including increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, shallow/rapid breathing as well as nausea, extreme dizziness and blurred vision. Further, PCP users may experience severe muscle contractions, causing the body to move oddly and uncoordinatedly. More seriously, such contortions may result in bone fracture or organ damage.

At higher doses, PCP may cause coma, body convulsions, hyperthermia or death.

Mental Effects of PCP

As was noted in the initial clinical trials of the 1950s, PCP can produce severe adverse mental reactions in its users. The drug was discontinued from human use after psychotic and schizophrenic reactions were observed in patients following its administration.

Some of the noted mental effects of PCP include:

  • Extreme dissociation/feelings of detachment from reality
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Distorted perception of space, time and/or self image
  • Panic/fear
  • Long-term memory loss and/or depression
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Impairment of thought or cognitive skill

Although some PCP users have reported feeling decreased awareness of pain and increased “strength,” others have reported feeling extreme disorientation, violence, depression and/or suicidal tendencies. Importantly, prolonged use of PCP can result in a physical dependency as well as a psychological addiction to the drug as well as the presence of withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of its use. As such, drug rehab for PCP addiction does exist and is strongly recommended in order for successful recovery.

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