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

Unmasking the effects of PCP: from addiction to recovery, explore the symptoms, treatment, and long-term consequences of angel dust.

Published On

July 6, 2024

Understanding PCP Addiction

PCP, also known as phencyclidine, is a powerful dissociative drug that was initially developed as a surgical anesthetic in the 1950s. However, due to its adverse effects, its medical use was discontinued in 1967 [1]. PCP is most commonly found as a crystalline white, off-white, or yellowish powder, although it can sometimes be found in capsule or pill form, masquerading as a black market prescription drug. The drug is no longer legal in the United States and is typically produced in clandestine drug labs outside the country.

Overview of Phencyclidine (PCP)

PCP is a Schedule II substance under federal law, which indicates its high potential for abuse. It is both psychologically and physically addictive, leading to substance use disorder and withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit. The drug is commonly referred to as "angel dust" and has various street names, including ozone, wack, and embalming fluid [1].

Prevalence and Impact of PCP Abuse

PCP abuse primarily affects individuals aged 25 and older, with nearly three percent of all Americans having abused the drug at least once in their lifetime. Over the past ten years, almost 80,000 people required immediate medical treatment due to PCP abuse. The illicit nature of PCP production and distribution makes it difficult to track its exact prevalence.

The consequences of PCP abuse can be severe. Continued use of PCP can lead to long-term physical and mental health consequences, including memory loss, weight loss, depression, and anxiety [4]. Seeking professional help and treatment at an addiction clinic can be essential in avoiding these effects and significantly improving the lives of individuals struggling with PCP addiction.

Understanding the overview, prevalence, and impact of PCP abuse is crucial in raising awareness about the dangers associated with this drug. By educating individuals on the risks and consequences, we can work towards reducing PCP addiction and providing support for those in need.

Symptoms and Effects of PCP Use

Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as "angel dust," is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that can have profound effects on individuals who use it. Understanding the symptoms and effects of PCP use is essential in recognizing and addressing potential problems.

Behavioral Symptoms of PCP Abuse

PCP abuse can lead to a range of behavioral symptoms. According to Health Canada, individuals using PCP may experience:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Disordered thinking
  • Mood disturbances
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Violence

These psycho-emotional effects can significantly impact an individual's behavior and may pose risks to themselves and others. Behavioral symptoms of PCP abuse can include hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and overtly aggressive behavior. Additionally, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms may indicate a PCP abuse problem that requires professional treatment [4].

Physical and Psychological Effects of PCP

PCP use can result in a range of physical and psychological effects. At lower doses, PCP can cause a sense of floating, feeling detached from reality, anxiety, memory loss, and changes in sensory perceptions. These effects are typically dose-dependent and can vary from person to person.

However, higher doses of PCP can lead to more severe and adverse effects. These can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Mixing PCP with depressants like benzodiazepines or alcohol can further increase the risks associated with PCP use. This combination can result in severely slowed breathing, coma, and even death from respiratory arrest. It's important to note that individuals under the influence of PCP may engage in risky behaviors due to alterations in perception, such as jumping out of a window or acting on suicidal thoughts [1].

Recognizing the behavioral symptoms and understanding the physical and psychological effects of PCP use is crucial for identifying potential PCP abuse and seeking appropriate help. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms or struggling with PCP addiction, it is important to reach out to a healthcare professional or addiction specialist for assistance.

Treatment for PCP Addiction

When it comes to addressing PCP addiction, recognizing the signs and seeking professional help are crucial steps towards recovery. PCP, also known as phencyclidine or angel dust, is a Schedule II substance under federal law. The drug is psychologically and physically addictive, leading to substance use disorder and withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit [3].

Recognizing PCP Addiction

Recognizing the signs of PCP addiction is the first step in getting help for oneself or a loved one. Common signs and symptoms of PCP addiction include:

  • Frequent and compulsive PCP use, often in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from PCP.
  • Cravings or strong urges to use PCP.
  • Neglecting responsibilities and personal relationships due to PCP use.
  • Developing a tolerance to PCP, needing higher doses to achieve the desired effects.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit or reduce PCP use.

If any of these signs are present, it is crucial to seek professional help to address the addiction effectively.

Seeking Professional Help

Addressing PCP addiction often requires professional assistance. While there is no specific medication to block the effects of PCP, therapy and addiction recovery programs have proven to be effective treatment approaches. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help individuals understand the underlying factors contributing to their addiction and develop coping mechanisms to overcome it [3].

Medical professionals, such as addiction specialists and counselors, can provide guidance and support throughout the recovery process. They can help individuals navigate the challenges of withdrawal and develop strategies to prevent relapse. Support from family and friends also plays a vital role in the recovery journey, providing encouragement and a solid support system.

It is important to remember that seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards a healthier and drug-free life. If you or someone you know is struggling with PCP addiction, reach out to a healthcare professional or an addiction treatment center to start the journey towards recovery.

Long-Term Effects of PCP Abuse

Prolonged abuse of phencyclidine (PCP) can have significant physical and mental health consequences. It is important to understand the potential risks associated with long-term PCP abuse.

Physical and Mental Health Consequences

Abusing PCP over an extended period can result in various physical and mental health issues. According to the American Addiction Centers, long-term PCP abuse can lead to:

  • Changes in brain structure
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble with concentration and perception
  • Difficulty with judgment
  • Persistent flashbacks
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Triggering of psychosis, especially in individuals already at risk for the disorder

Additionally, individuals who have abused PCP may experience changes in speech, such as developing speech impediments, which can last up to one year after detoxing from PCP [2]. These physical and mental health consequences can have a significant impact on an individual's overall well-being and quality of life.

Risks of Prolonged PCP Abuse

Regular, long-term abuse of PCP can lead to tolerance, dependence, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. Individuals may develop a tolerance to the effects of PCP, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Dependence and addiction can occur when the body becomes reliant on PCP to function normally, leading to cravings and an inability to control use.

Bingeing on PCP, known as "runs," can have serious consequences. It can lead to serious malnutrition, mental health damage, internal organ harm, and physical injuries. The risk of physical harm increases due to impaired judgment, delusions of invincibility, and altered perception associated with PCP use.

Overdose from PCP is also a concern. It can result in rhabdomyolysis, a condition causing breakdown of skeletal muscles and kidney damage. Smoking PCP can increase the risk of various cancers, while snorting it can damage mucous membranes, leading to holes in the palate, oral health damage, and lung infections.

It is crucial to be aware of these risks and seek professional help for individuals struggling with PCP abuse. With the right treatment and support, recovery from PCP addiction is possible, and individuals can regain control of their lives.

Recovery from PCP Addiction

Recovering from PCP addiction requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the addiction. Therapeutic approaches and proper management of withdrawal symptoms play a crucial role in the recovery process.

Therapeutic Approaches for PCP Addiction

While there is no specific medication available to block the effects of PCP, various therapeutic approaches have shown effectiveness in treating PCP addiction. One such approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to identify and modify the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to drug abuse. CBT helps individuals develop coping strategies, enhance problem-solving skills, and build a support network to sustain their recovery journey.

Another therapeutic approach commonly used in PCP addiction treatment is motivational interviewing (MI). MI is a collaborative conversation style that aims to enhance an individual's motivation to change their addictive behaviors. Through MI, individuals explore their ambivalence towards drug use and develop internal motivation to seek and maintain recovery.

Group therapy and support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can also provide valuable support during the recovery process. These group settings allow individuals to share their experiences, learn from others, and receive encouragement and support from peers who have gone through similar challenges.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

When individuals with PCP addiction decide to stop using the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be managed with the help of medical professionals and a strong support system. The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the extent of their PCP use.

Medical professionals may provide supportive care to help manage withdrawal symptoms. This may include medications to address specific symptoms, such as anxiety or insomnia. The medical team may also monitor the individual's vital signs and overall well-being during the withdrawal process.

In addition to medical support, having a strong support system is essential for managing withdrawal symptoms and maintaining recovery. Family and friends can offer emotional support, encouragement, and a stable environment during this challenging time. Support groups, such as those mentioned earlier, can also provide guidance and a sense of community.

It is important to seek professional help when managing withdrawal symptoms and during the recovery journey. Professional treatment facilities and addiction clinics are equipped with the expertise and resources needed to support individuals in their recovery from PCP addiction.

By utilizing therapeutic approaches and managing withdrawal symptoms, individuals can embark on a path to recovery from PCP addiction. With the right support and treatment, it is possible to overcome the challenges associated with PCP addiction and lead a healthier, drug-free life.

Dangers and Complications of PCP Abuse

PCP abuse can have severe consequences, posing dangers and complications for individuals who misuse this powerful hallucinogenic drug. Understanding the potential risks associated with PCP use is crucial in raising awareness and promoting informed decision-making.

Physical Harm from PCP Use

One of the significant risks of PCP abuse is the potential for physical harm. PCP can distort pain perception, leading individuals to engage in dangerous behaviors that may result in injuries. Moreover, PCP can be easily mixed with other drugs like marijuana, tobacco, or even ecstasy, increasing the risks associated with its use [5]. The following are some examples of physical harm that can occur due to PCP abuse:

  1. Falls: PCP can impair coordination and balance, making individuals more prone to falls and related injuries.
  2. Cuts and Bruises: Disorientation and loss of coordination caused by PCP can increase the likelihood of cuts, bruises, and other injuries.
  3. Burns: Impaired judgment and altered perception may lead individuals to engage in risky behaviors, increasing the risk of accidental burns.
  4. Delusions of Invincibility: Under the influence of PCP, some individuals may develop a false sense of invincibility, leading to risky activities that can result in physical harm.

Risks of PCP Overdose

Overdosing on PCP can have severe consequences, potentially resulting in life-threatening situations. Mixing PCP with depressants like benzodiazepines or alcohol can lead to severely slowed breathing, coma, and even death from respiratory arrest. Additionally, individuals under the influence of PCP may engage in risky behaviors due to alterations in perception, such as jumping out of windows or acting on suicidal thoughts [1].

Moreover, PCP overdose can lead to a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which causes breakdown of skeletal muscles and kidney damage. This can have long-lasting effects on an individual's health and well-being. It is important to seek immediate medical attention in the case of a suspected PCP overdose.

In summary, PCP abuse can result in physical harm, ranging from falls and injuries to burns and related accidents. Additionally, the risks of PCP overdose are significant and can lead to life-threatening situations. Understanding these dangers and complications is vital in raising awareness about the potential consequences of PCP misuse and promoting the importance of seeking help and treatment.


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

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

[3]: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/what-is-pcp

[4]: https://www.longleafhospital.com/addiction/pcp/signs-symptoms-effects/

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

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