ecstasy monogram

Phencyclidine, popularly known in its’ abbreviated form PCP, is a potent dissociative drug. This drug is mostly sold on the streets in various forms like white powder, capsules, crystals, liquid and tablets. Like its other illicit counterparts, PCP is distributed in doses that are difficult to determine, and frequently mixed with various other intoxicating substances.

PCP in its pill form is found in various colors. PCP is typically snorted, swallowed, or smoked either alone or in combination with various other substances like marijuana, tobacco, or MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine).

ecstasy monogram

Basically a synthetic illegal substance having anesthetic properties, PCP’s history dates back to 1926 when it was actually developed, but its anesthetic properties were unknown till 1956. PCP was launched in the market as a surgical anesthetic for human use under the brand name Sernyl™ and for veterinary purposes under brand name Sernylan™.

PCP’s then intended therapeutic purpose was pain relief, sleep-inducing sedation and loss of body mobility. However, it soon fell from grace due to its side effects. Though PCP was used as animal tranquilizers in veterinary science for few years, this too fell out of favor and eventually legal manufacturing of PCP was completely prohibited by 1978.

Last three decades have seen PCP become a major adulterant that has found use in different illicit drugs. Combinations of LSD and PCP used to be often marketed as mescaline or psilocybin, but dosage was very low to actually produce any major negative symptom.

Between 2005 and 2011, there was nearly 400% jump in emergency room visits due to PCP, a trend which was attributable to PCP being used to mimick more popular hallucinogens.

A Schedule II controlled substance, PCP produces hallucinogenic effects as a NMDA receptor in the brain. Potency of PCP in comparison to other hallucinogens such as ketamine, dextromethorphan, nitrous oxide, and tileamine is more. Use of PCP leads to a trance state wherein people feel detached from themselves and the surroundings. Many PCP users feel as if they are floating in the air.

PCP is usually sold as colored powder, capsule, or tablet, which is abused by smoking, snorting swallowing, or injecting. PCP’s strong taste is camouflaged using herbs like mint, parsley, oregano, or tobacco. At times, PCP is smeared on marijuana leaves for producing increased potent effect.

Regrettably, PCP is highly addictive drug, where people using it become tolerant and if they quit, they face several withdrawal symptoms. Overcoming PCP’s addiction is quite perplexing and challenging and once addicted, de-addiction treatment of the person without any professional helps becomes more problematic.

On the streets, PCP is known as by various names, most of them are listed below:

Angel mistLittle ones
Animal tranquilizerMadman
Bad pizzaMagic
Blud madmanMauve
Busy beeMint leaf
CadillacMonkey dust
ColumboNew acid
Crazy eddieOpp
Detroit pinkOzone
Do it jackPeace pill
Dummy dustPeter pan
Embalming fluidPurple
ErthRocket fuel
Goon dustSpecial la coke
Gorilla biscuitsStp
Heaven and hellSynthetic cocaine
HogTaking a cruise
Horse tranquilizerT-buzz
IllyTic tac
Jet fuelTitch
LbjWobble weed
Lemon 714Worm and yellow fever

A highly potent and dangerous drug, PCP got its bad reputation way back in 1980 when it first became popular. Due to its reputation, very few people abused this drug. This reputation slowly faded away with new generation entering the drug world. It was proved correct when this phenomenon appeared in 2012, with PCP steadily gaining popularity ever since. PCP is generally grouped with potent club drugs like ecstasy (Molly), ketamine, LSD, and rohypnol. All these type of drugs which have risky effects.

PCP is very addictive and even though user realizes consequences of using it, he/she cannot stop using it. PCP cravings are such that it would attract user back to the drug for more despite life-threatening consequences.

PCP Effects

PCP is known as a “dissociative anesthetic,” and its mechanism is described as being in an unusual anesthetic state where user feels as if he/she is somewhat detached for his/her body. This leads to more disturbing long term effects and actually gets the person to lose his/her sense of self.

PCP-induced flashbacks may include feeling of being disconnected, an unreal feeling and inability to control one’s actions. A PCP abuser becomes convinced that outside world is unreal and that his/her experience is only a dream and their actions and outcome are pointless.

Even using dosages as low as 1 – 5 mg could cause symptoms like numbness and feeling of relaxation, a euphoric feeling, concentration issues, garbled speech, motor coordination problems, clouded perception in speed and strength as well as unexpected erratic behavior. Some of the effects in a person would be either staring blankly or having rapid eye movements.

In some cases, person using PCP would sit perfectly still and be immobile for many minutes or hours without any response to stimulation. Higher PCP doses causes user to see and hear imaginary things, delusions with overstated sense of significance, hypertension, and rapid heartbeats, breathing difficulties, anxiety, extreme worrying, panic attacks and increasing body temperature.

While the effects as such are unpredictable, it produces a high which causes users to repeat it. However, some common immediate effects include aggressive behavior, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation, paranoia, confusion, disorientation, sense of alienation, and grandiose delusions.

Driving and PCP

PCP is known to produce extremely altered behavior and very powerful hallucinations. It produces serious harm in both short-term and long-term users with short and long-term effects. PCP users have difficulty in driving and driving is considered unsafe for them as they become unaware and unresponsive to their surroundings. Like LSD (hallucinogens), PCP cause one to have hallucinations and are unable to detect any danger and take appropriate action. Using these drugs might make the user feel as if they have supernatural powers which can make them reckless behind wheels.

Short-term PCP Effects

Time and again, it has been proved that effects vary with dosage and administration route. When PCP is smoked, effects begin within 2 minutes and when swallowed, drug slows absorption with side effects becoming visible only after half-an-hour to one hour. In either cases, effects may linger for 4 hours to nearly 48 hours, subject to dose used and drug’s potency.

Dilated eyes, a sense of floating & hallucinations are common short term effects that drives the addicts to abuse this drug.

Similar to ketamine, PCP is a sedative-anesthetic, dissociative drug with hallucinogenic properties, meaning it produces auditory and/or visual hallucinations and perceptual changes. This effect of PCP makes user feel detached from world and from themselves. Under PCP influence’s, one feels removed from reality and can get a feeling that they are not residing in their own body.

Amount of phencyclidine that one takes has a significant impact on how PCP effects one’s experience. Low or moderate dose like 1 to 5 mg of PCP could produce effects such as euphoric feeling, physical numbness, drowsiness, confused state of mind, dissociation, involuntary eye movement, blank facial expression, unable to control the body and garbled speech.

When dose increases to 10 mg, these effects vary and it starts with delusional thinking, hallucinations, paranoia, unusually extreme aggressive behavior, and anxiety transitioning into panic attacks. The user could have rapid heart rate with increased blood pressure, which chances of heart failure being maximum. Breathing becomes rapid and abnormal with increased chances of lung failure. Emotionally, the user has confused state of mind as well as disorientation.

He/she tend to develop suspicious and irrational behavior. Loss of muscle control results in meaningless movements. The person tends to get violent and aggressive. The person could have distorted sense of space and time. Besides these, the user may develop chills and flushes along with shakiness and poor coordination.

This is followed by nausea and appetite loss, dilated eyes and a sense of floating in the air and hallucinations. On top of the above symptoms, user can also have panic attacks. If large dose of phencyclidine is taken, then chances of overdose is high and can subsequently result in seizures, coma as well as death.

Long-Term PCP Effects

Used over a sustained time period, PCP’s side effects becomes more alarming and these may remain even when user reduces the amount of drug. Long term effects are dangerous and studies have shown that few of these symptoms can last for even a year after final PCP dose. Sustained use of PCP over long period of time can result in serious outcomes.

Some of these effects include: Unpredictable flashbacks which are either nightmares or pleasant can lasts for weeks, or months or even years after final use, speech difficulties (chronic impairment with stuttering, difficulty in articulation, even inability to speak), withdrawn from social life, severe ongoing depression, anxiety, unintentional suicidal ideations, diminished motivation, increased frequency of panic attacks as well as concentration and memory issues.

Even if the user does not have any mental health issues, regular use of PCP can and would lead to severe psychosis (delusional thinks, hallucinations, known as substance-induced or toxic psychosis.

Besides the above-mentioned issues, PCP users develop a feeling of bugs crawling on their skin, uncontrolled anger and also can develop schizophrenia.

Last but not the least, pregnant women who abuse PCP can harm their unborn child and result in changes in child while in womb. Children born to these women can be either premature, and can suffer from respiratory issues since PCP hinder proper lung development. Babies can also be lethargic and develop tremors. Like adults, withdrawals in infants can turn fatal as well.

Is PCP Harmful ?

Under PCP’s influence, people can act violently or aggressively towards oneself as well as others. Though affecting every PCP user, aggressive behavior becomes an everyday affair in people who are battling mental health problems. These behavior has resulted in PCP gaining a very bad reputation amongst illicit drug users and compared to other drugs, people still desist using it, though this is changing quickly.

A major issue with PCP users is that they have a misplaced notion of superhuman abilities, which generally leads to injuries or even death. For instance, a PCP user may think that he/she can get across a busy road in fraction of seconds, but would end up being hit by an oncoming vehicle resulting in serious injuries or even death. PCP users also are unable to comprehend calm situations and turn aggressive resulting in severe physical injuries.

Another danger of using PCP is the fact that it is often “cut” with other illicit drugs and substances like marijuana, LSD or even tobacco. For example, user tend to lace tobacco or marijuana with PCP before smoking it or use cigarettes dipped in liquid PCP. Besides these, gullible users can also fall prey to unscrupulous drug agents. For instance, people wanting to have pure PCP can be fooled in buying pills which is a combination of substances like caffeine, ketamine, ecstasy and PCP rather than pure PCP.

Though equally harmful, adulterated PCP is more risky than pure PCP. PCP abusers can become guinea pigs and are always uncertain about the effect.

Dependency on PCP is dangerous, since PCP’s tranquilizing and sedating properties are highly addictive in nature. PCP users crave for PCP and chances of its danger and risks increase with each usage. When PCP dependency grows, body adjusts to it and withdrawal can lead to body behaving differently. Large PCP dose can be fatal, especially since they are not always pure and is combined with other drugs, thereby no stable or consistent potency.

Though equally harmful, adulterated PCP is more risky than pure PCP. PCP abusers can become guinea pigs and are always uncertain about the effect. In fact, even the drug sellers themselves may not be sure whether the drug sold is actually PCP or something else. These extreme dosage variances often leads to fatal consequences for even hardened drug abusers.

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Dr. Freeman completed her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) in 2008 from UT Health San Antonio. She was a fellow at the University of Michigan and performed a surgery residency at Lahey Hospital in Burlington Massachussets. Dr. Freeman is currently a surgeon at TRACC in the Dallas Fort Worth area.