PCP: What Is PCP, the Effects, Risks, & More of This Dangerous Anesthetic

What is PCP?Shape

What is PCP? One of the most unpredictable and dangerous drugs, PCP is risky. We talk about the effects and signs of PCP addiction in our blog.

PCP, or Phencyclidine, is a dissociative anesthetic known for its mind-altering effects.

It was introduced in the 1950s as a general anesthetic but was discontinued due to its side effects, which include hallucinations. PCP is an illegal drug in the US, classified as a Schedule II drug.

Phencyclidine, or PCP, is also called angel dust and is mainly supplied illicitly in white powder easily soluble in liquor or water. It can also be purchased as a fluid or powder.

Stats about PCP:

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 30,000 Americans aged 12 and up indicated starting PCP consumption in the previous year. In 2020, NSDUH estimated a spike to 52,000 people in the United States aged 12 and above who had started taking PCPs within the previous year. 

Young adults and teenagers most frequently misuse PCP. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.), The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported 546 instances, 212 single substance events, and two fatalities in 2020. According to data for 2021, there were 438 PCP-related instances and 165 single exposures, followed by a single death.  

How Do People Use PCP?

There are several methods of administration for PCP to be consumed:

  • Swallowed or ingested

  • Injected

  • Smoked (Many PCP users consume PCP via cannabis joints called sherm sticks)

  • Snorted

What Is PCP?

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a mind-altering substance that can cause delusions (a major change in one's view of actuality). It is classified as a dissociative substance because it causes distortions in vision, sound, texture, self, and surroundings.

PCP was created as an injectable anesthesia in the 1950s; however, due to strong, hazardous adverse reactions, its creation for general medical usage was halted. Ketamine, a type of anesthesia employed in surgical treatment and unpleasant operations that is chemically similar to PCP, has generally replaced PCP.

On the black market, PCP often has a variety of impurities, resulting in a hue that ranges from pale to deep brown and a powdered to sticky mass texture.

Slang terms and nicknames of PCP include:

  • Angel Dust

  • Embalming fluid

  • Ozone

  • Wack

  • Rocket fuel

  • Wet

  • Fry

  • Illy

What Does PCP Feel Like?

PCP is an addictive substance that is capable of altering brain chemistry. This means that it affects emotions, conduct, mood, and the way a person perceives reality. PCP is known to interfere with the regular functions of specific brain chemicals. 

PCP belongs to a family of drugs known as hallucinogens. These kinds of drugs make you see, hear, and smell things that aren’t real. Technically, PCP is known as a “dissociative anesthetic.” This means PCP makes a person feel removed from their physical being and the environment.

Many people experience PCP in different ways. The effects of PCP can include:

  • Feeling intensely happy

  • Experiencing time in different ways; time may feel very slow or extremely fast

  • Becoming angry and extremely aggressive

  • Feeling intense mood swings

  • Vivid hallucinations

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How Long Does It Take for PCP to Work?

The method a person uses to take PCP determines how quickly they feel the effects of this drug. Like every other drug, multiple factors determine how quickly a person feels the effects of PCP.

Here are some rough estimates for how quickly PCP’s effects are felt:

Ingesting PCP

When a person takes PCP orally, they often start feeling the effects of PCP in around half an hour. The effects tend to peak around two to five hours.

Huffing PCP

A person who is inhaling PCP usually feels the effects fairly quickly, around five minutes. The effects peak around 15 to 30 minutes after PCP was used.

Injecting PCP

A person will feel PCP’s effects two to five minutes after it enters their bloodstream.

What Are the Side Effects of PCP Use?

PCP is infamous for the effects it causes users. Although an anesthetic, PCP can cause people to become extremely aggressive and violent.

Other side effects of PCP use include:

  • Severe panic attacks 

  • Feelings of isolation

  • Psychosis 

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Psychosis

  • Feeling detached from life

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Lack of mobility and coordination

  • Feelings of immense power

  • Audio and visual hallucinations

  • Serious mood disorders

  • Memory loss

  • A blank gaze

  • Irregular and unconscious eye movements

  • Unable to walk properly

Physical Side Effects of PCP Use

  • High respiratory rate

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Excessive sweating

  • Difficulty breathing

High doses of PCP can also trigger seizures, coma, and risky behavior. Emotional and behavioral changes at increased amounts cause hallucinations and delirium.

Is It Possible to Get Addicted to PCP?

Yes, it’s possible to develop a dependency on PCP. Whether or not this qualifies as an actual addiction is still being studied, but PCP can certainly wreak havoc on a person’s life. Signs of PCP addiction can include:

  • Cravings for PCP

  • A history of PCP use

  • Mixing PCP with other drugs, such as cannabis

  • Hiding or denial about PCP use

  • Desires to use PCP constantly

  • Behavior problems related to PCP use

Drug addiction isn’t always easy to spot, and everybody shows signs of addiction differently.

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Risks of PCP Abuse

PCP is a sedative, and when mixed with other drugs like liquor, benzodiazepines, and cannabis, might result in the user becoming comatose or potential overdose. Many PCP users are admitted to the emergency departments due to PCP's uncomfortable behavioral side effects or possible intoxication.

Also, the aggressive behaviors some PCP users exhibit can get them arrested or even killed by the authorities. This is why PCP abuse is so dangerous.

Individuals who cease their PCP consumption tend to feel drug desires, increased hunger, migraines, increased sleep, anxiety, and profuse sweating as typical withdrawal symptoms. There have been no actual authorized treatments for PCP addiction and misuse.

However, one thing is similar in all substance use disorders (SUDs): drug rehabilitation and psychotherapy are vital and clinically proven to offer great relief from drug reliance. 

Getting Treatment for PCP Addiction

The treatment for PCP addiction starts when you realize your condition and need assistance. This isn’t an easy realization to make, but it’s critical for starting the recovery process.

After transferring your focus to getting better, the next stage is to seek professional help. Recovery facilities employ cognitive behavioral therapy, regular counseling, and medically assisted treatments. The main objective is to help you comprehend your emotions, conduct, and the reason behind your PCP abuse. 

Many rehabilitation centers also include family, close relatives, and friends in therapy to assist you in your recovery and learn about their background and history of drug misuse. This ensures improved communication and can also help you restrain further substance misuse habits. 

A residential treatment center may be where you are required to recuperate if your cravings and withdrawal symptoms are severe. Your well-being and security can be checked as a whole while you heal. The symptoms of withdrawal might be treated with medications. Although the FDA approves no medications to address PCP addiction and withdrawal, medical specialists are still prevalent in their research.

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How an Addiction Center Treats PCP Addiction

Patients who participate in a PCP treatment recovery program at an addiction center should expect to go through the following steps:


The first step of PCP treatment is putting the patient at ease and allowing the surgical staff to understand the patient's needs completely. Therapists and physicians interview the patient. This helps them get a feel for the patient's history of substance abuse, any co-occurring mental issues, and overall medical history to build an effective individualized treatment plan.

Withdrawal Management

Detox is the first step if the patient exhibits withdrawal symptoms and/or side effects following admission. If a medicine is required, patients may be given it, and the therapeutic intervention method that will characterize the majority of their recovery period may begin.


Following that, patients are treated in individual, group, and experiential therapy sessions. Patients begin to address the trauma and mental health disorders that may have led to their PCP reliance from the start.


Aftercare helps people stay sober after they leave an addiction center. This includes 12-step groups, other forms of community support, and continued care.

Psychotherapy can also reduce a person's chances of relapsing and help him get back on their feet if he does relapse. Different therapy options are available through rehabilitation programs, which is crucial because no single treatment is appropriate for everyone.

The goal of therapy in the rehabilitation process is to help patients change their attitudes, ideas, and actions around substance abuse while encouraging them to participate in treatment and live a healthy lifestyle.

PCP Abuse Is Dangerous. The Forge Recovery Center Will Help

PCP is one of the most unpredictable and dangerous drugs out there. While not as high-profile as it was back in the 1970s, PCP seems to be having something of a comeback. Most PCP found today is likely produced in underground laboratories, with minimal safety. In fact, a person who uses PCP in modern times may not be using PCP at all; instead, it might just be random chemicals sold as PCP.

That’s what makes drug use so dangerous – uncertainty. The Forge Recovery Center can help you or a loved one leave PCP abuse behind, building a happier, healthier life. We’ve carefully curated a safe, welcoming environment where the roots of PCP addiction can be treated successfully.

If you’d like to know more about our PCP addiction treatment program, please reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

June 21, 2023