As Partnership for Drug-Free Kids explains, the official chemical name for PCP is phencyclidine. This sedative drug was developed in the 1950s as a surgical anesthetic and was known to also induce a trance-like “out-of-body” experience. However, in 1965, the drug stopped being used on patients because they experienced side effects such as agitation, delusional thinking, and irrationality. PCP comes in the form of a white crystalline powder. On the drug market, PCP makes its appearance in capsules, tablets, and different colored powders. PCP can be dissolved in alcohol or water. When smoked, PCP is usually liquefied and then sprayed on to a leafy substance such as marijuana (this combination is called “supergrass”), parsley, mint, or oregano. PCP is also made into a fluid form in order for it to be injected. In addition, PCP can be snorted or swallowed.

Popular street names for PCP include:

  • Angel Dust
  • Killer Weed
  • Embalming Fluid
  • Rocket Fuel

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), PCP is classified as a hallucinogenic. This group of drugs causes distortions in the user’s perception of reality, including hearing sounds, seeing images, and having sensations that are not consistent with physical reality. Research shows that PCP acts on a receptor in the brain that is involved in the perception of pain, memory, learning, and environmental responses.

PCP is illegal, and there is no legitimate use for this drug. According to the Controlled Substances Act, PCP is a Schedule II drug, a category that also includes cocaine and methamphetamine.

PCP has received this classification because it has a high potential for abuse and a great risk of physical and psychological dependence.

  • PCP Users

    PCP users exist across different age groups. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, approximately 6 million Americans aged 12 and older have used PCP at least once in their lifetime. The study also revealed that PCP is popular among teenagers and young adults – 225,000 Americans in the group aged 12 to 17 and 777,000 in the 18 to 25 group had used PCP at least once.

    The dangers of PCP make its use among high school students particularly disconcerting. PCP use in young people may disrupt hormone function related to healthy development and growth. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, more than 3 percent of seniors in high school had used PCP at least once.


  • PCP Effects

    As NIDA further explains, PCP became a street drug in the 1960s. It soon developed a reputation for causing bad reactions and was generally considered not worth the risk. However, some users continued to use the drug because of its pleasurable effects, such as the feeling of invincibility.

    According to NIDA, PCP abuse can bring several side effects, including the following:

    Schizophrenia-like symptoms. In addition to hallucinations, users may experiences delusions, paranoia, and “dissociative” activity like feeling disconnected from one’s environment.

    -Mood problems. One study of emergency room visits found that 50 percent of PCP users who had consumed the drug within the prior 48 hours stated they have experienced a considerable increase in anxiety-related symptoms.

    -Decreased functionality. Long-term users of PCP have reported impaired speech and thinking, loss of memory, weight loss, and depression.

    -Physiological effects. PCP users may experience an increased breathing rate, rise in blood pressure, heightened pulse rate, profuse sweating, limb numbness, and impairments with muscular movement, among other physical side effects.

  • Learn More

    As is the case with other drugs, when excessive amounts of PCP are consumed, additional symptoms may arise, including seizures, coma (due to the sedative effect PCP can have), and even death (usually as a result of suicide or injury while on PCP). A high volume of PCP may also cause reduced blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration. Additional side effects include blurred vision, vomiting, dizziness, and loss of balance. PCP users may not only be putting themselves at risk but others as well, as this drug can cause the user to become violent towards others. Side effects do not always terminate with the cessation of use, and symptoms may persist for up to a year after use.

    PCP is addictive. As NIDA discussed, PCP users who continually use the drug will eventually crave it and compulsively seek it, even if they know of the dangers involved. The harmful side effects and the risk of addiction associated with PCP make it a particularly dangerous drug.

    Treatment for PCP abuse includes detoxification followed by a structured treatment plan that includes individual counseling and group meetings. The detoxification process may last five to seven days, but it depends on the amount of PCP abused, the length of intake, and co-occurrence of any other drug use. The second phase of treatment, which includes intensive counseling, will usually begin once the PCP user has safely detoxed from this harmful hallucinogen.

At Futures of Palm Beach, our expert team of addiction specialists combines decades of clinical experience with a commitment to compassionate care. If you, or your loved one, are abusing PCP, treatment is the most effective way to stop this dangerous addiction. Call now.

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