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PCP

What It Is:

PCP, or phencyclidine, is a dangerous drug that was originally developed as an anesthetic. Its use was discontinued in humans in 1965 because of the troubling side effects. It is now illegal in the United States.

Sometimes Called:

angel dust

How It's Used:

In its pure form, PCP is a white crystalline powder. It dissolves quickly in liquids but has a distinctive, bitter chemical taste. Most PCP sold in the United States comes as a white or colored powder or liquid and is added to leafy substances (such as oregano, mint, or marijuana) and smoked. PCP also can be sold in pill, tablet, or capsule form to be swallowed. In some cases, PCP users snort the drug or mix it with a liquid and inject it with a syringe.

What It Does:

PCP affects the user's memory, ability to process emotion, and learning ability. At lower doses, the effects of PCP can be similar to alcohol intoxication.

PCP can make users feel detached from their bodies and their surroundings. It can also distort a user's perceptions of sight, sound, and reality — the drug is known for giving users a false sense of strength, power, and invincibility.

Higher doses of PCP can cause hallucinations and symptoms similar to the effects of mental illnesses like schizophrenia. These include anxiety, delusions, paranoia, trouble forming coherent thoughts, suicidal thoughts, and bizarre behavior. PCP users can get violent.

Depending on the dose and way the PCP was taken (injected, smoked, or swallowed), the drug's effects can be felt in 2–5 minutes and last anywhere from 6–24 hours.

PCP can also cause these physical side effects:

  • body numbness
  • dizziness
  • drooling
  • slurred or garbled speech
  • loss of muscle coordination and balance
  • profuse sweating
  • rapid, involuntary eye movements or a blank stare
  • nausea and vomiting

PCP is addictive. Long-term use can lead to mental and physical cravings for the drug and compulsive behavior to get and take it. Because the drug is so addictive, users keep taking it even when they know the health problems PCP causes.

PCP can have sedative effects. If it's mixed with other sedatives, such as alcohol or depressants, it can put a user in a coma and cause serious, life-threatening consequences.

Some PCP users suffer frequent hallucination flashbacks and other mental disorders over a long period of time.

PCP is an illegal drug listed as a Schedule II substance in the United States. Possession or use is punishable by fines and jail time.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2018