What Is PCP (Phencyclidine)?

PCP, the common name for Phencyclidine, is a Hallucinogenic substance that affects the brain in various ways. PCP was first used in the 1950s as an Anesthetic and later became popularized in the 1960s and 70s as a recreational drug. Known for its ability to cause the user to detach and disassociate from their surroundings, the drug can also produce a strong feeling of euphoria. The Schedule II controlled substance goes by several street names, such as:

  • Angel Dust
  • Hog
  • Amoeba
  • STP
  • Super Grass
  • Zoom

  • Belladonna
  • Peace Pills
  • Boat
  • Animal Trank
  • Sherm Sticks
  • Embalming Fluid

The drug is known for uncomfortable withdrawal effects, producing delusions, irritability, and anxiety when users are “coming down.” PCP can come in liquid form, yellow or clear in color, or in a powder or tablet form, easily dissolving in water. PCP is also often mixed with other drugs, such as Ecstasy, Methamphetamine, LSD, and Mescaline, typically without the user’s knowledge.

PCP can be smoked, snorted, taken orally, sprinkled onto other drugs, or injected.

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PCP Addiction

Phencyclidine is addictive, as it impacts the brain’s chemical composition. Upon ingesting PCP, people experience joy and a perceived clarity of thought. Depending on how they have taken it, people can feel the results of the substance rather quickly. For instance, someone injecting PCP can feel the effects in 2 to 5 minutes; smoking PCP can produce effects in the same amount of time, and the experience can last up to half an hour. A user who swallows the substance will feel its effects in roughly 30 minutes, with intense side effects occurring 2 to 5 hours after consumption.

Because of the altered states of consciousness people experience under the influence of PCP, many can become dependent on the drug. In particular, individuals seeking sensory distortions or pseudo-spiritual experiences may be at risk. People taking PCP also experience mood changes and poor coordination. Side effects of PCP vary based on the size of the dose. Common symptoms of PCP addiction are:

  • Delusions
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • Exaggerated strength
  • Increased heart rate
  • Numbness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Rapid respiration rate
  • Memory loss
  • Physical and psychological distress
  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Chills
  • Muscle cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Death
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Extreme fear or panic
  • Invulnerability
  • Aggression

The subjective experience of PCP use can vary wildly and unpredictably due to the different symptoms that may occur on each trip. Someone may use PCP and become aggressive, while someone else may become overly empathetic or anxious. It is very hard to predict which symptoms will occur, as they often depend on the mental state the user is in before taking PCP.

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Other signs of PCP addiction include the inability to control one’s intake of the drug and/or increasing one’s intake of the substance. Long-term abuse of the drug may produce serious side effects like suicidal thoughts, mania, flashbacks, and social isolation.

PCP is especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other Depressants; the combination can lead to respiratory distress or arrest, possibly resulting in death.

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Examining Modern PCP Use

PCP is currently especially popular in the form of a yellow liquid. Some consumers are young teens who soak cigarettes in the drug to experience its effects. Like with many harmful substances, early exposure PCP deeply affects the mind. Teens have a higher risk of developing psychosis later on in life if they abuse the substance.

One report out of the nation’s capital found that “10% of adults within D.C.’s justice system tested positive for the drug.” Additional findings revealed 1% of 12th grade students had the drug in their system in recent years. There was a 400% increase in PCP-related emergency department visits between 2005 to 2011. Men accounted for 69% of this total, and most people hospitalized in 2011 were between the ages of 25 and 39. Several of these visits included a combination of other drugs like Marijuana, Heroin, and Cocaine. Finally, 2011 emergency department visits for PCP, MDMA, and LSD combined were at 75,538 in the United States. Statistics from 2017 revealed 2.2% of people aged 12 and older had used the substance during their lifetime, as had 2.7% of people aged 26 and older.

PCP Withdrawal And Treatment

Once someone becomes dependent on or addicted to PCP and then suddenly stops, they will endure painful withdrawal symptoms. People suffering PCP use disorders suffer confusion, increased appetite, depression, and increased cravings for the substance. Psychotic symptoms like paranoia can develop and be difficult to stop. Treatment is essential in curbing cravings and side effects. People struggling should consider inpatient or outpatient rehab, which provide a safe environment in which to heal and be supervised. There are medications people in rehab have access to which make withdrawal less uncomfortable.

Find Help Today

PCP abuse can have many damaging effects on the mind and body. Finding help and getting treatment is key to investing in your health and wellness. If you or a loved one struggles with PCP abuse, there is support available. There are many treatment options available for anyone considering rehab. Contact a treatment provider now to find out more.



Krystina Murray

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  • Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.

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Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) with over 12 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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