PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction & Abuse

PCP produces a variety of effects when used, some pleasant and some not, its unpredictability in effects – sometimes acting as a stimulant, depressant or even hallucinogen – caused its removal from the market for human use, but despite the bad reputation, PCP has remained popular and cheaply produced on the street.

What is PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction?

PCP is a unique drug that produces both central nervous system depression and stimulation also known as:

  • Angel Dust
  • Horse Tranquiliser
  • Hog
  • Elephant
  • embalming fluid
  • rocket fuel
  • DOA (dead on arrival)
  • lethal weapon

PCP has retained popularity as a street drug and is often found in PCP-laced marijuana cigarettes (Whako Tobacco), with effects starting in 2-5min of inhalation, smoking has remained the most popular use. (Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug)

Long-term use of PCP can lead to mental and physical cravings for the drug and compulsive behaviour to get and take it

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PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction VS. Abuse

Whilst the line between PCP abuse and addiction is marginal, there are differences, not everyone who abuses PCP will go on to develop an addiction, however, both abuse and addiction have detrimental effects on your life.

If you find yourself taking PCP more regularly, in doses higher than usual or a different manner to have a stronger effect, then you are abusing the medication. Other signs that you are abusing PCP include:

The DSM- 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) indicates that if you have had at least two of the following problems in 12 months, there is a high probability that your PCP use has evolved into a substance use disorder or addiction:

  • Taking more PCP than intended
  • Inability to cut back or control use
  • Spending the majority of time obtaining, using, or recovering from PCP
  • Building tolerance
  • Experiencing cravings
  • Failing to carry out normal role expectations at school, work, or home
  • Continuing to use PCP despite social or interpersonal problems
  • Dropping out of social, occupational, or recreational activities
  • Taking PCP in situations that are dangerous to self or others
  • Using PCP despite physical or psychological problems
    (DSM Library)
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What Makes PCP (Phencyclidine) Addictive?

Pcp has the infamous reputation of being a strong hallucinogenic with the ability to induce the illusion of:

  • Euphoria
  • Omnipotence
  • Superhuman strength
  • Social and sexual prowess

Even in small doses, PCP increases dopamine and norepinephrine production resulting in increased adrenaline, increased feelings of happiness all while coupled with acute pain blocking and anesthetic-like qualities. (Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug)

The effects, depending on how it is administered can last for hours, leaving you in a dissociative state or fantasy world.

Unfortunately, the use of PCP may have made you unable to feel pain in your arms and legs, allowing you to get hurt, cuts, bruises even broken bones which may not have been evident until the effects of PCP had worn off.

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    How PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction Develops

    Use of PCP, though not as popular as opioids, amphetamine, cocaine and meth, may account for a higher dependency rate if you have the following concurrent risk factors:

      • Chronic use of PCP
      • Mental illness
        1. Depression
        2. Anxiety
        3. Bipolar disorders
        • PTSD
        • Childhood trauma & Abuse
        1. Sexual contact
        2. Parental neglect
        3. Physical abuse
        • Socio-economic factors
        1. Poverty
        2. Social Exclusion
        3. Social exposure to drug use
        • Genetic predisposition can account for up to 90% of your risk of addiction formation.

    Signs & Symptoms of PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction

    Addiction to PCP often results in psychological dependence, intense cravings and compulsive behaviours as well as:

    • unpredictable behaviour;
    • mood swings
    • intoxication
    • disorientation;
    • agitation
    • violent, aggressive behaviour
    • fear, terror, shivering
    • blank stare
    • rigid muscles
    • pupils may be dilated or floating – appear to follow a moving object
    • mask-like facial appearance
    • Unexplained injuries

    Diagnosing PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction

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    PCP intoxication or use shares many physical and mental characteristics of health conditions, and a differential diagnosis including a qualitative urine toxicology screen has become mandatory for any patient exhibiting an altered mental status of unknown origin. (Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug)

    The NHS also recommends that the DAST-10 (Drug Abuse Screening Test) assessment (Policy for alcohol referral pathway/clarify services between CAT & DAS services) and CAGE questionnaire (CAGE Questionnaire: Questions, Scoring, Variations, and Accuracy) be used by your medical provider or chosen treatment centre
    You will be asked the following questions:

    1. What substance(s) are you using? Including other drugs or medications
    2. In what quantities?
    3. How frequently?
    4. By what route (smoking, injecting, swallowing)?
    5. How long have you been using for?
    6. Do you recognise this use as problematic?

    The Dangers of PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction

    man talking to a therapist

    Prolonged use of PCP may cause

    • disturbances in judgement,
    • memory,
    • concentration
    • perception
    • speech problems
    • violent behaviour
    • hearing voices and sounds that don’t exist.
    • PCP-induced psychoses
      (a disturbance of the
      user’s thought processes)

    Chronic use may have also caused you to have flashbacks where you experienced PCP’s effects without consuming it and may have suffered from recurring bouts of anxiety and depression.

    PCP (Phencyclidine) Use in Teens

    PCP use amongst teens is of particular concern, due to its addictive qualities, early exposure to PCP can lead to dependence, poly-drug use as well as:

    • Negative hormone effects (in growth and development)
    • Impeded learning processes
    • Memory loss
    • Depression
    • Weightloss
    • Delusions
    • Paranoia
    • Schizophrenia
      (PCP Fast Facts)

    PCP (Phencyclidine) Use and Employment

    PCP inhibits your work ethic and the ability to function adequately due to the anaesthetic effects. Injuries in the workplace are increased while under the drug’s effects.
    The effects of PCP can fluctuate over days, weeks and even months because it is stored in fat cells, this means that you may experience the effects during a workday even if you haven’t used PCP recently. (PCP (Phencyclidine): 9 FAQs About Angel Dust)

    PCP (Phencyclidine) with Other Drugs

    PCP is often mixed with other substances for easier absorption into your body. The most popular substance is Marijuana which can affect how you experience the effects and how long they last.

    Serious side effects are increased if you mix PCP with other central nervous system depressants, such as:

    PCP (Phencyclidine) Use Around Children

    PCP sensitivity in children is extremely high even with minimal exposure and intoxication can last from 12 hours up to six days. Symptoms of intoxication are:

    • hypersalivation,
    • a dull trance-like stare,
    • Extreme pupil constriction – miosis,
    • ‘Drunken sailor’ gait – truncal ataxia,
    • Involuntary movements in fingers and toes – choreoathetosis,
    • lethargy alternating with agitation,
    • horizontal or vertical uncontrolled movement of eyes,
    • mild hypertension
      (PCP intoxication in seven young children)

    Getting Help for PCP (Phencyclidine) Addiction

    PCP addiction treatment is available, recovery is possible with a comprehensive treatment system offering a wide range of integrated pharmacological Interventions:

    • Detoxification
    • Medication support if required

    Psychosocial interventions based on scientific evidence and focused on the process of rehabilitation, recovery, and social reintegration:

    Under the right guidance, it is possible to learn how to avoid triggers, better care for the body and mind, and build a community of support. Our team can help you find the right fit for your treatment.

    Frequently Asked Questions
    You may have a lot of questions about addiction. If you are unable to find the answer below please give us a call and speak to one of our addiction specialists today.
    Is PCP (Phencyclidine) physically addictive?
    Chronic or repeated use of PCP can lead to craving and compulsive PCP-seeking behaviour, despite severe adverse consequences to your health, mental state, employment and family relationships, which by definition, means that it is an addictive substance.
    Does PCP (Phencyclidine) abuse affect Mental Health?
    History of chronic, long-term use, can include:

    • flashbacks,
    • hallucinations,
    • memory loss,
    • difficulties with speech and thinking,
    • depression,
    • mood disorders

    These can persist for up to a year after quitting PCP (PCP: Effects, Risks, and How to Get Help)

    Can you get addicted to PCP (Phencyclidine) after one use?
    As a Class A drug in the UK, PCP has a high probability for misuse as well as a high possibility for physical and mental addiction. Whilst one use may not have made you dependent, the effects can be enticing enough to encourage repeated use and tolerance buildup.
    How can I help a loved one struggling with PCP (Phencyclidine) addiction?
    It is never easy to have to admit that there may be a loved one struggling with addiction. Approaching them from a place of love with compassion and understanding will go a long way to encouraging your loved ones to seek help for their addiction.
    If you need assistance, contact us.

    Jason Sheirs
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip. Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.