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Phencyclidine (PCP)

What is it?

Phencyclidine or PCP is an illegally produced hallucinogen that began as a surgical anesthetic in the 1950’s but was removed from the market in 1965 because patients suffered hallucinations and delirium while recuperating. PCP is also used as a veterinary drug and is sometimes diverted from that use as a human recreational drug. PCP is a “disassociate” drug because it distorts perceptions of sight and sound and produces a feeling of detachment from a person’s surroundings and self. It is also a sedative-hypnotic. The drug is a white crystalline powder that is soluble in water or alcohol. When contaminated, it can appear tan to yellow-brown. Concentrations of the drug vary due to difficulty of street preparation and other toxic chemicals can be present.

Slang Terms:

Angel dust, wack, ozone, rocket fuel, hog, fry, formaldehyde, amp, wet, elephant, tranq, TicTac and embalming fluid. Crystal super grass refers to PCP mixed with marijuana.

How is it used?

Lighter doses of up to 10 mg are usually smoked, snorted nasally or injected, while larger does are usually taken orally. PCP can also be added to eye drops and is often used with alcohol or with other drugs, including marijuana, crack cocaine or cocaine.

Signs of usage:

Speech is often garbled, sparse, or disjointed, eyes flick up and down, and users have trouble moving around and walking normally. They also have trouble with eye-hand coordination and may drool, sweat profusely, and appear flushed. Under the influence of PCP people can become very combative. They drive erratically and are likely to have an accident. With prolonged use, weight loss and depression can occur. High doses cause schizophrenia–like symptoms such as delusions, or conversely, a catatonic state in which the user’s eyes are glassy and he is conscious but doesn’t react.

Effects of usage:

The psychological effects of PCP use can be either exhilarating or frightening and always dangerous, so many first time users won’t use it again. However, with a high, continued drug use becomes addictive. Addictive highs of PCP include a perception of great physical strength, being invulnerable and impervious to pain, as well as experiencing hallucinations, which are sought out by some users.

How long do the effects last?

PCP’s effects develop within about an hour, depending on the how the drug is taken, and can last up to eight hours, with gradually diminishing effects over a 4 to 6 hour period. Slowed memory and physical reaction time can last up to 14 hours.

Effects of withdrawal:

Long after a continual user has taken PCP, there can be psychotic episodes, memory loss and loss of muscle coordination. Even with one use, the memory of being temporarily out of control of one’s muscles and the sensation of hallucinations can be frightening. Flashbacks often occur.

Adverse reactions:

PCP is an extremely dangerous drug, and is unique among hallucinogenic drugs in that it can result in a fatal overdose, usually resulting in cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest or stroke. Seizures and coma can also result from overdose. Users may become destructive to themselves and others, and become hysterical or even suicidal. Use of PCP can also result in dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness, numbness of feet and hands, catatonic state, and more extreme reactions such as schizophrenia-like hallucinations and paranoia.

Effects of prolonged usage:

Memory loss and difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, weight loss and liver function abnormalities may occur after prolonged use. Psychotic effects that mimic schizophrenia can actually last up to a month or longer, and flashbacks of a negative trip can occur throughout life.

Usage by youth:

Annual use of PCP was reported as 1.3 % of seniors. Specific use of PCP by younger students is unavailable. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that while use among those aged 18 to 25 declined, use among 12 to 13 year olds was up significantly in 2004, from 0.1 % in 2003 to 0.3 %.

Recent Developments:

Hospital emergency room admissions for youth using PCP have increased steadily in the past few years. Some of this may be due to the fact that youth are increasingly using PCP and PCP/formaldehyde/marijuana mixtures.

Information provided by Dr. Barbara A. Krantz, Chief Medical Officer at the Hanley Center

First Check Diagnostics, LLC is offering these resources for informational purposes only, and the Hanley Center is no way affiliated with any of the entities that provide the resources.