PCP (Angel Dust): Effects, Hazards & Extent of Use

Overcome the grip of Angel Dust addiction. Learn about symptoms, treatment, and effects of Phencyclidine (PCP) abuse. Seek support now!

Published On

July 6, 2024

Understanding PCP Addiction

To comprehend the complexities of PCP addiction, it is essential to explore the introduction of phencyclidine (PCP) and the history of its misuse.

Introduction to Phencyclidine (PCP)

Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as angel dust, is a hallucinogenic dissociative drug that was initially developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic. However, due to postoperative delirium and other adverse effects, its use for human anesthesia was discontinued in 1967 American Addiction Centers. The street names for PCP, such as "horse tranquilizer," "hog," and "elephant," originated from its former veterinary use NCBI.

Despite its discontinuation as a medical anesthetic, PCP gained popularity as a recreational drug during the 1970s. By 1979, approximately 12.8% of twelfth graders had used PCP, indicating its widespread recreational use. PCP is primarily consumed orally, but it can also be smoked, snorted, or injected. Its effects vary depending on the dose and the route of administration.

History of PCP Misuse

After its initial decline in the 1980s, PCP re-emerged as a drug of abuse in the 2000s. It has been found that PCP is sometimes laced with marijuana cigarettes, and up to 24% of street marijuana samples have tested positive for PCP NCBI.

The misuse of PCP presents significant health risks and can lead to addiction. Understanding the history and development of PCP provides insight into the reasons behind its misuse and the challenges associated with PCP addiction. By exploring the effects, symptoms, treatment, and consequences of PCP abuse, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of this substance and work towards defeating the addiction.

Effects and Symptoms of PCP Abuse

When it comes to PCP abuse, understanding the effects and symptoms is crucial for recognizing and addressing the problem. PCP, also known as phencyclidine or "angel dust," can have both short-term and long-term effects on the individual. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms and dependency can occur with prolonged use of PCP.

Short-Term Effects of PCP

The short-term effects of PCP abuse are dose-dependent. Low to moderate doses can result in effects such as numbness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Users may also experience a sense of detachment from reality and distorted perceptions of time and space. Agitation, aggression, and impulsivity are also common side effects of PCP use [1].

Higher doses of PCP can lead to overdose and adverse effects. These may include seizures, coma, and even death. It's important to note that the effects of PCP can vary from person to person, and the intensity of the experience can be influenced by factors such as the individual's tolerance and the environment in which the drug is used.

Long-Term Effects of PCP

Long-term PCP use can have persistent effects that can last for more than a year after stopping use. Memory problems, difficulties with speech, and weight loss are some of the common long-term effects associated with PCP abuse [1]. The impact of PCP on mental health can be profound, leading to symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It's essential to seek professional help to address these long-term effects and support recovery.

Withdrawal Symptoms and Dependency

PCP abuse can lead to dependence and the development of a substance use disorder or addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can manifest when the drug is discontinued or significantly reduced. These symptoms can include intense cravings, headaches, sweating, and memory problems [1]. The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms may vary based on factors such as the length of addiction, dosages used, overall health, and any co-occurring substance use.

It is important to note that PCP withdrawal can be long-lasting and uncomfortable, both physically and psychologically. Medical supervision is recommended during the detoxification process to ensure the safety of the individual and to identify triggers that may increase the risk of relapse [2].

Understanding the effects and symptoms of PCP abuse is crucial for identifying and addressing the problem. If you or someone you know is struggling with PCP addiction, seeking professional help and support is essential for recovery. There are effective treatment options available, including behavioral therapies, counseling, and live-in treatment programs, that can help individuals overcome PCP addiction and regain control of their lives.

Treatment and Recovery for PCP Addiction

For individuals struggling with PCP addiction, seeking appropriate treatment and support is crucial for their recovery. Addressing PCP addiction involves a combination of behavioral therapies, counseling, and, in severe cases, live-in treatment programs. Let's explore these options in more detail.

Behavioral Therapies and Counseling

Behavioral therapies and counseling play a significant role in treating PCP addiction. These approaches aim to modify the individual's thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors related to drug use. They can be conducted in individual, group, or family settings, depending on the needs and preferences of the person seeking treatment.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used approach for PCP addiction. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use. CBT helps individuals develop effective coping strategies, manage cravings, and prevent relapse.

Motivational interviewing is another counseling technique that can be beneficial. It aims to enhance an individual's motivation and commitment to change by exploring their ambivalence towards drug use and helping them find their intrinsic motivation to recover.

Medications for Managing Withdrawal

Currently, there are no specific medications approved for the treatment of PCP addiction. However, medications may be prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms and address any co-occurring mental health conditions. For example, medications may be used to alleviate anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances that can arise during the withdrawal process.

It is important to note that the use of medications in PCP addiction treatment is limited, and more research is needed to develop targeted pharmacological interventions for this specific addiction. Individuals should consult with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate course of action.

Live-In Treatment Programs

In severe cases of PCP addiction where the individual requires intensive support and monitoring, live-in treatment programs, such as residential rehab centers, may be recommended. These programs provide a structured environment where individuals can focus solely on their recovery.

In a live-in treatment program, individuals receive comprehensive care, including medical supervision, counseling, group therapy, and other supportive services. These programs typically offer a safe and supportive community, away from the triggers and temptations of the outside world, allowing individuals to fully engage in their recovery process.

The duration of stay in a live-in treatment program can vary depending on the individual's needs and progress. After completing the program, individuals are usually encouraged to continue with outpatient treatment and participate in ongoing support groups to maintain their recovery.

By combining behavioral therapies, counseling, and, when necessary, live-in treatment programs, individuals can increase their chances of overcoming PCP addiction. It is essential to recognize the problem, seek professional help, and follow the recommendations of healthcare professionals to ensure appropriate care and support throughout the recovery journey.

Health Risks and Consequences of PCP Use

PCP use poses significant health risks and consequences, affecting both physical and mental well-being. Understanding these effects is essential in recognizing the dangers associated with PCP use.

Physical and Mental Health Effects

The effects of PCP use can vary depending on the dose and individual response. Short-term effects of PCP use, as reported by the American Addiction Centers, include:

  • Numbness
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination

At higher doses, PCP can lead to overdose and severe adverse effects such as seizures, coma, and even death. It is important to note that the short-term effects of PCP are dose-dependent.

Long-term effects of PCP use can persist for more than a year after stopping use. These effects may include memory problems, weight loss, and speech difficulties. The impact on mental health can be profound, with individuals experiencing flashbacks, depression, anxiety, and auditory or visual hallucinations, even without taking PCP [1].

Impact on Brain Structure

Prolonged and repeated use of PCP can lead to changes in brain structure. These changes can result in memory problems, difficulties with concentration, judgment, and perception. Individuals who struggle with PCP abuse may experience long-lasting cognitive impairments and psychiatric symptoms, even after discontinuing use. These symptoms may manifest as flashbacks, depression, anxiety, and hallucinations [3].

Risks of PCP Overdose

PCP overdose is a severe and potentially life-threatening consequence of its use. High doses of PCP can lead to rhabdomyolysis, a condition characterized by the breakdown of skeletal muscles, which can result in kidney damage. Overdose symptoms may include seizures, extreme agitation, high body temperature, hallucinations, and impaired motor function. Prompt medical attention is crucial in cases of PCP overdose to prevent further complications and ensure the safety of the individual.

Understanding the health risks and consequences associated with PCP use is vital for individuals using or considering using this substance. The physical and mental health effects, impact on brain structure, and risks of overdose highlight the dangers of PCP abuse. Seeking help and support from professionals is crucial for those struggling with PCP addiction to initiate the path to recovery and improve overall well-being.

PCP Abuse and Co-Occurring Conditions

Phencyclidine (PCP), commonly known as angel dust, is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that can have significant effects on an individual's mental health. It is important to understand the relationship between PCP abuse and co-occurring conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis, and violence.

Relationship Between PCP and Schizophrenia

While PCP is not the cause of schizophrenia, it can worsen the condition in individuals who already have it and even mimic symptoms in those without prior psychiatric illness. Studies have shown that PCP can induce symptoms resembling schizophrenia in healthy individuals and lead to psychosis or a syndrome similar to schizophrenia at certain doses.

Doses of 5 to 10 mg of PCP orally have been known to induce acute schizophrenia-like symptoms, including agitation, psychosis, audiovisual hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and catatonia. Higher doses of PCP typically result in a state of coma. PCP has been utilized in animal studies to investigate the neurochemical basis of schizophrenia.

PCP Use and Psychosis

Psychosis is another co-occurring condition associated with PCP use. The drug can induce a state of psychosis, characterized by a loss of touch with reality, hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. PCP-induced psychosis can be a transient effect of the drug, but in some cases, it may persist even after the drug has left the system.

Individuals who experience PCP-induced psychosis may require medical intervention and treatment to manage their symptoms. It is crucial to seek professional help to ensure proper care and support during the recovery process.

PCP Abuse and Violence

One of the most concerning aspects of PCP abuse is its potential to induce violent, aggressive, and bizarre behavior in individuals. Over 50% of adult patients with PCP intoxication present with classic symptoms such as violent behavior, nystagmus, tachycardia, hypertension, anesthesia, and analgesia. The clinical picture may fluctuate between extreme agitation and sedation due to PCP's ability to produce CNS stimulation and depression through different effects in the central nervous system.

PCP's negative reputation is largely due to reports of aggressive and violent behavior in individuals under its influence. People using PCP may overestimate their abilities, leading to accidental injuries and even death. It is not uncommon for individuals intoxicated with PCP to engage in dangerous activities such as walking into traffic, jumping from buildings, and self-mutilation [4]. The substance can also be mixed with other drugs like marijuana and tobacco, increasing the risk of harm. Additionally, PCP is sometimes combined with other substances like ketamine, caffeine, and methamphetamine, which can deceive individuals who believe they are purchasing ecstasy or MDMA.

Understanding the potential co-occurring conditions associated with PCP abuse is essential for recognizing the risks and seeking appropriate help and support. If you or someone you know is struggling with PCP addiction or experiencing symptoms related to PCP use, it is crucial to reach out to healthcare professionals or addiction specialists for assistance.

Prevention and Support for PCP Addiction

When it comes to PCP addiction, prevention and support play crucial roles in addressing and overcoming the challenges associated with this substance. Recognizing the signs of PCP addiction, seeking help and support, and exploring future research and medication development are important steps in the journey towards recovery.

Recognizing PCP Addiction

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of PCP addiction is the first step in addressing the issue. Some common signs of PCP addiction may include frequent and uncontrollable drug cravings, the inability to stop using PCP despite negative consequences, and the development of tolerance, requiring larger doses to achieve the desired effects [6]. It's important to be aware of street names for PCP, such as angel dust, embalming fluid, rocket fuel, and wack [6]. If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with PCP addiction, seeking professional advice is crucial.

Seeking Help and Support

Seeking help and support is vital for individuals struggling with PCP addiction. There are various addiction treatments available that can benefit those facing PCP addiction. It's important to reach out to healthcare professionals or addiction specialists who can provide guidance and support tailored to individual needs. Engaging in addiction treatment programs that utilize behavior change techniques, such as counseling and therapy, can help individuals address the underlying issues contributing to their addiction and develop healthy coping mechanisms [5].

In severe cases of PCP addiction, live-in treatment programs may be recommended. These programs provide a structured environment where individuals can receive 24/7 support and medical care as they work towards recovery. Staying in a live-in treatment program allows for close monitoring of health and safety during the recovery process [6].

Future Research and Medication Development

While there is currently no medication that can block the effects of PCP or reduce its use, ongoing research is being conducted to develop medicines that can aid in the treatment of PCP addiction [6]. Scientists are working towards finding solutions that can effectively address PCP addiction and provide additional support to individuals seeking recovery.

As the field of addiction treatment continues to evolve, it's important to stay informed about the latest research advancements and treatment options. Keeping up with future developments and medication breakthroughs in PCP addiction treatment can provide hope and potential avenues for recovery.

Prevention and support are key components in combating PCP addiction. By recognizing the signs of addiction, seeking help and support, and staying informed about the progress of research and medication development, individuals can take proactive steps towards overcoming PCP addiction and achieving long-term recovery. Remember, reaching out for professional help is a crucial first step on the path to recovery.


[1]: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/pcp-abuse

[2]: https://diamondrehabthailand.com/pcp-health-effects/

[3]: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/pcp-abuse/long-term-effects

[4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859735/

[5]: https://drugabuse.com/drugs/hallucinogens/pcp/effects-use/

[6]: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000797.htm

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