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Substance use - phencyclidine (PCP)

PCP; Substance abuse - phencyclidine; Drug abuse - phencyclidine; Drug use - phencyclidine

Phencyclidine (PCP) is an illegal street drug that usually comes as a white powder, which can be dissolved in alcohol or water. It can be bought as a powder or liquid.

PCP can be used in different ways:

Street names for PCP include angel dust, embalming fluid, hog, killer weed, love boat, ozone, peace pill, rocket fuel, super grass, and wack.

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PCP's Effects on Your Brain

PCP is a mind-altering drug. This means it acts on your brain (central nervous system) and changes your mood, behavior, and the way you relate to the world around you. Scientists think it blocks the normal actions of certain brain chemicals.

PCP is in a class of drugs called hallucinogens. These are substances that cause hallucinations. These are things that you see, hear, or feel while awake that appear to be real, but instead have been created by the mind.

PCP is also known as a dissociative drug. It causes you to feel separated from your body and surroundings. Using PCP may make you feel:

How fast you feel the effects of PCP depends on how you use it:

Harmful Effects of PCP

PCP can also have unpleasant effects:

PCP's other harmful effects include:

PCP can be Addictive

People who use PCP can get psychologically addicted to it. This means their mind is dependent on PCP. They are not able to control their use of it and they need PCP to get through daily life.

Addiction can lead to tolerance. Tolerance means you need more and more PCP to get the same high. If you try to stop using, you may have reactions. These are called withdrawal symptoms, and may include:

Treatment Options

Treatment begins with recognizing there is a problem. Once you decide you want to do something about your PCP use, the next step is to get help and support.

Treatment programs use behavior change techniques through counseling (talk therapy). The aim is to help you understand your behaviors and why you use PCP. Involving family and friends during counseling can help support you and keep you from going back to using (relapsing).

If you have severe withdrawal symptoms, you may need to stay at a live-in treatment program. There, your health and safety can be monitored as you recover. Medicines may be used to treat withdrawal symptoms.

At this time, there is no medicine that can help reduce the use of PCP by blocking its effects. But scientists are researching such medicines.

Your Ongoing Recovery

As you recover, focus on the following to help prevent relapse:

Resources

Resources that may help you on your road to recovery include:

Your workplace employee assistance program (EAP) is also a good resource.

When to Call the Doctor

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you or someone you know is addicted to PCP and needs help stopping. Also call if you are having withdrawal symptoms that concern you.

If you are thinking about hurting yourself or others, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, anytime day or night.

You can also call 911 or the local emergency number or go to the hospital emergency room. DO NOT delay.

If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.

References

Barrett W, Iwanicki JL. THC and hallucinogens. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, Erickson TB, Wilcox SR, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 145.

Kowalchuk A, Reed BC. Substance use disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 50.

National Institute on Drug Abuse website. What are hallucinogens? www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens. Updated November 2021. Accessed August 17, 2022.

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Review Date: 4/30/2022  

Reviewed By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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