PCP Addiction & Abuse | Signs, Side Effects, & Treatment

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a Schedule II controlled substance that was originally formulated in the 1950s with the intention of using it as an dissociative anesthetic.

Unfortunately, the side effects of the drug could be severe. Patients frequently demonstrated agitation as well as delusional and irrational behavior.

PCP was discontinued for human use in 1965 and discontinued for animal use in 1978. PCP abuse was considered a major public health issue in the 1970s but fell dramatically in the 1980s.

How PCP Affects The Brain And Body

Unlike most other hallucinogens, the effects of PCP are not primarily driven by changes to serotonin levels in the brain.

The drug is known to inhibit serotonin reuptake, but PCP’s interaction with the brain’s glutamate receptors are the primary driver behind the drug’s more severe side effects.

The glutamate receptors normally play a role in the perception of pain and responses to the environment. By extension, glutamate receptors contribute to both learning and memory.

Types Of PCP

PCP is not legally manufactured in the United States any more. However, it may be imported or locally synthesized in a variety of forms.


PCP is often sold as a white, crystalline powder that looks similar to cocaine.


PCP can be sold in its crystalline form. These crystals often appear as small, cloudy white rocks.


PCP is less frequently sold in liquid form. The liquid is often a yellow to amber color.

Pressed Pill

The appearance of PCP pills varies widely, as the color, shape, and imprint are often determined by the illicit manufacturer.


PCP capsules vary as widely as pressed pills. The powder within the capsule is usually white.

PCP Side Effects

The use of PCP was halted soon after its development due to serious side effects, especially psychological side effects that could cause the affected person to harm themselves or others.

The psychological side effects of PCP abuse include:

  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • disordered thinking
  • paranoia
  • disassociation from the environment
  • anxiety
  • a false sense of strength, power, or invulnerability
  • violent or suicidal behavior

The physiological side effects of PCP include:

  • increased respiration rate
  • high blood pressure
  • elevated heart rate
  • shallow breathing
  • sweating
  • flushing
  • numb extremities
  • loss of coordination
  • nausea and vomiting
  • blurred vision
  • uncontrolled eye movements
  • drooling

It is important to note that high doses of PCP could cause a dramatic decrease in respiration, pulse, and blood pressure. Higher doses may also cause seizures, coma, or death.

People who abuse PCP for an extended period of time report memory loss, depression, and cognitive difficulties.

Methods Of PCP Abuse

There are a number of methods of abuse employed by people who use PCP. The drug is most commonly ingested, snorted, or smoked.


People who ingest PCP are most likely to purchase it in pressed pill or capsule form. This method of abuse results in a longer time-to-onset and a more sustained high.


While it is possible to inject PCP by dissolving the powder in water, this form of drug abuse is far less common.


Insufflation is one of the more common forms of PCP abuse, as the time to onset is rapid. Snorting PCP powder causes a strong high that affects the person quickly.

Smoke Inhalation

Smoking PCP is another common form of abuse. People may choose to smoke PCP by sprinkling PCP powder over another substance like marijuana.

Street Names For PCP

People who purchase and sell PCP on the street use a variety of names for the drug.

Common street names for PCP include:

  • angel dust
  • hog
  • rocket fuel
  • ozone
  • wack
  • embalming fluid

When PCP is sold in combination with marijuana, the combination may be sold as killer joints, wets, or super grass.

Signs Of PCP Abuse

PCP is a powerful drug. People who abuse PCP tend to display symptoms that are similar to those caused by schizophrenia and other serious mental health disorders.

If your loved one is using PCP, you may notice that they are experiencing:

  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • loss of coordination
  • aggression
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • cravings
  • delusions
  • hallucinations

The effects of PCP can make some people believe they are invincible, so they may take on tremendous risks or ignore consequences of risky behavior.

As with other forms of illicit drug use, PCP abuse may cause your loved one to be more secretive or hang out with groups of people they wouldn’t normally associate with.

Risks Of PCP Use

PCP is a volatile dissociative hallucinogenic. The side effects of PCP can easily cause someone to harm themselves or others.

In addition to short-term risks like violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, and drug overdose, PCP also has long-term risks that can damage the brain’s ability to store information.

Long-term effects of PCP use include serious health problems like memory loss and cognitive degeneration.

Unfortunately, PCP also has a high potential for abuse and addiction, which can make it difficult for many people to stop using PCP.

PCP Detection Windows

PCP and other hallucinogenic drugs can be detected using drug tests.

The detection windows for PCP will vary based on the individuals frequency of use, dosage, and personal medical history.

PCP Urine Test

Urine tests are the most common form of routine drug test. A urine sample can reveal PCP up to seven days following last use.

PCP Blood Test

Blood tests are usually used to detect drugs during emergency room visits where an accident or overdose makes it difficult or impossible to ask the patient if they have been using drugs or alcohol.

PCP can be detected in the blood up to four hours after last use.

PCP Saliva Test

Saliva tests are infrequently used, as they usually only detect drug use for a short period of time. In the case of PCP, a saliva test may detect the drug up to three days following last use.

PCP Hair Follicle Test

Hair tests are rare because they typically only detect drug use that occurred at least 30 days prior to the test. With that said, these tests can be used to detect drug use up to 90 days after last use.

Signs Of PCP Toxicity

In high doses, PCP can mimic the effects of central nervous system depressants like opioids and benzodiazepines. In these cases, a potentially fatal PCP overdose is possible.

PCP overdose symptoms include:

  • slowed breathing
  • unresponsiveness
  • seizures
  • coma
  • blue around the lips and fingers

In lower doses, dangerous encounters with PCP are usually labeled as PCP toxicity.

People should seek emergency treatment for PCP toxicity if they experience any of the more serious psychological symptoms associated with PCP. These include psychosis and suicidal thoughts.

PCP Abuse Treatment Options

PCP is potentially addictive, and many people who use PCP do need the help of a professional addiction recovery program.

These programs often incorporate detoxification centers, therapeutic approaches, medication management, and aftercare programs.


It isn’t entirely clear whether PCP causes physical dependence as well as psychological dependence, but many people do experience PCP withdrawal symptoms.

A treatment center can help you plan how to manage your detoxification with the assistance of medication, if needed. Detox can occur in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is an important tool in any addiction recovery. This category of therapeutic approaches is scientifically proven to increase positive outcomes for people living with a substance abuse disorder.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing (MI) are just a few of the methods used to address addiction and co-occurring disorders during treatment.


Aftercare follows the core addiction treatment program to ensure that the client continues to receive compassionate guidance.

A substance use disorder is a lifelong condition, and aftercare programs help to address the client’s ongoing need for support through access to healthcare and support groups.

Start Treatment For PCP Abuse Today

If you’re ready to begin PCP addiction treatment, contact Bedrock Recovery Center in Massachusetts today.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/pcp.pdf
  2. National Drug Intelligence Center https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs4/4440/index.htm
  3. National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/sites/default/files/hallucinogens_df_12_2014.pdf
  4. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424847/table/appd.t13/
  5. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507865/
  6. National Library Of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002526.htm
  7. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12700700/

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: October 3, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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