PCP Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment
Phencyclidine (PCP) (also known as “angel dust” or “peace pill”) was originally developed as an anesthetic for surgery. However, it is no longer used for medical applications due to side effects that caused patients to become agitated, delusional and irrational. However, PCP continues to be used recreationally for its mind-altering, hallucinogenic properties.1,2
Is PCP Addictive?
PCP can be addictive. A person who uses it regularly may experience cravings for the drug and feel that they “need” it to function in daily life.
A PCP user can also develop tolerance to PCP, which means that he or she needs higher and higher doses to achieve the desired effect.
Prolonged PCP use can also result in the user experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer taken, including: 1,2,3
- Feeling fear and anxiety.
- Irritability or agitation.
- Muscle twitching.
- Increased body temperature.
How to Tell If You or a Loved One Is Addicted
Signs and symptoms of PCP addiction include: 4
- A need to use the drug daily.
- Needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect.
- Ensuring that you maintain a supply of the drug.
- Spending money to get the drug, even when you can’t afford it.
- Impairments in daily life, such as regular absences from work or school, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use.
- Doing things to buy the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing.
- Driving or doing other risky activities when under the influence of PCP.
- Being unable stop using the drug.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using PCP.
Signs That Someone May Be Abusing PCP
It can be difficult to distinguish drug abuse from other conditions, such as depression. This is particularly difficult in adolescents, when the symptoms can be disregarded as typical teenage angst or moodiness. However, there are signs of substance abuse that one can look for, including: 4
- Problems in work or school – sudden drop in grades, regular and inexcusable absenteeism, or sudden disinterest.
- Health issues – a chronic cough or frequent colds or infections.
- Appearance changes – lack of interest in clothing, grooming or overall appearance.
- Behavior changes- sudden secretiveness, moodiness or changes in relationships with others.
- Excessive spending – requests for money without explanation, or stealing.
Paying for Treatment
The cost of treatment will vary depending on:
- Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient treatment.
- How long treatment occurs.
- How high-end the facility is.
- Where it is located.
Contact to identify what your insurance will cover and what you will have to pay.
Other ways to fund your treatment include:
- Financing your recovery with credit cards.
- Taking out loans or borrowing.
- Using crowdfunding.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) helpline, also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service, can also help you find ways to cover treatment costs if you do not have insurance. It is confidential, free and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Getting Treatment and Starting Recovery
Treatment options for PCP include outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, 12-step programs and individual or group counseling. If someone is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, he or she will need to undergo detox under medical supervision before beginning a treatment program.
There is no federally approved medication for the treatment of PCP, but research is ongoing. 3
Outpatient treatment options can include individual or group counseling , or sometimes both, on a regular schedule. In some instances, a person will begin in a more intensive, inpatient treatment program and then transition to outpatient treatment when ready.
Costs of outpatient treatment vary depending on the duration and the level of care needed. It tends to be cheaper than other, more intense forms of treatment, such as inpatient treatment. But it may not be as effective for people who have serious substance abuse problems or co-occurring mental or behavioral health disorders.
Inpatient treatment can be very effective for those with severe drug addictions or withdrawal symptoms. These programs offer intensive, 24-hour care and can vary in length from 28 to 30 days to 60 days to 90 days. Examples of inpatient treatment include:
- Standard residential – These are usually highly structured programs that include daily group therapy and activities as well as individual counseling and medical supervision. Many also offer integrated detox programs at the start of treatment.
- Luxury – Luxury programs are more high-end and offer features such as spa treatments, massage, tennis and state-of-the-art facilities.
- Executive or CEO – These are luxury programs that cater to corporate executives who need to continue taking care of work responsibilities while they are in treatment.
Inpatient treatment tends to be more expensive than other forms of treatment. The actual cost will depend on how long you stay in treatment, where the treatment center is located and what kind of amenities it offers. More upscale programs in more desirable locations will tend to cost more.
Many inpatient, outpatient and 12-step programs use behavioral therapies. These therapies help a person to modify his or her behavior and attitudes toward the drug and aid in daily life skills.
Common behavioral therapies include:5
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT helps people confront behaviors and attitudes associated with drug abuse. It helps the person tackle patterns in his or her life that contribute to drug abuse, avoid relapse triggers and make necessary changes to live drug-free.
- Motivational interviewing – This model builds off a person’s readiness to change maladaptive behaviors associated with drug abuse. This model works best with people who are ready and willing to participate in treatment.
- Contingency management – This model uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs. Contingency management is more effective when the person has other people in his or her life who can help encourage and provide reinforcement.
Twelve-step programs and other self-help programs build on social support systems to promote drug-free lifestyles. You are encouraged to work with a sponsor to complete a series of recovery steps that help you maintain sobriety. These programs are recommended for less severe forms of addiction or during/upon graduation from more intense treatment.6 They are often free, run by volunteers and offered in communities across the country.
Many of the above treatment options are available for teens. But teen-specific programs may be modified to account for the special needs of this age group.
One program that has been effective for use with adolescents is the multidimensional family therapy model. This model works with the adolescent and his or her family, addressing a range of issues related to the drug abuse while working on family relationships.5
It is important to note that PCP use in adolescents poses particular risks. Short-term use of PCP can cause hormonal imbalances that can impact growth and development. 2
Dual diagnosis means that a person has both a co-occurring mental health disorder and an alcohol or drug addiction. Research suggests that drug addictions are more common in those who also suffer from depression, anxiety or personality disorders. The mental health disorder may occur first, with drugs and/or alcohol later being used to self-medicate. On the other hand, if the drug abuse occurs first, it may contribute to the development of new-onset mental health disorders.
No matter which occurred first, it is important for anyone with a dual diagnosis to receive treatment that addresses both conditions. Behavioral therapies are very effective for those with dual diagnosis. Self-help groups are also helpful.7
Aftercare is ongoing care or support you receive after you leave a treatment program. It is very important in maintaining recovery and avoiding relapse. Many treatment centers will help you develop an aftercare plan before you discharge.
Types of aftercare include:
- Sober living or halfway homes – This program often follows more intensive forms of inpatient treatment and is offered in supervised, short-term housing. The goal is to transition the person into an independent and productive life by focusing on daily living skills, such as finance management, employment, housing and other support services in his or her community.
- Group counseling or individual counseling. Ongoing counseling in a group or 1-on-1 setting can allow a person in recovery to discuss any struggles they may have in recovery as well as give feedback to others in similar situations.
- 12-step programs. As mentioned above, these programs bring together people with similar addictions and promote a sober lifestyle.
In order to prevent relapse, it is important to follow all the treatment protocols prescribed by your addiction treatment team. Other tools to assist with relapse prevention include: 3
- Finding new activities to replace PCP use.
- Spending more time with friends and family who encourage and support your abstinence from drug use, and avoiding friends or family who use PCP or other drugs.
- Avoiding triggers or stressors that may lead you to use PCP, such as places, things or emotions that you associate with past drug use.
Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of PCP Dependency
PCP is a mind-altering drug that may cause hallucinations. It is also considered a dissociative drug, meaning that it causes people to feel detached from themselves and their surroundings. 3
The effects of PCP can begin within 30 minutes of taking the drug and can last up to 12 hours. 1,3 The method of consumption affects how fast the effects set in: 3
- Intravenously – “Shooting up” or injecting PCP into the vein can result in effects that take place within 5 minutes.
- Smoked- Effects begin within 5 minutes, peaking at 15 to 30 minutes.
- Swallowed – Effects begin within 30 minutes and peak at about 2 to 5 hours.
Short-term effects can include: 1,3
- Intensified feelings and sensory experiences.
- Relaxation and/or detachment from one’s environment.
- Feelings of joy or euphoria.
- Lowered inhibitions.
- Feelings of superhuman strength and invincibility; dangerous disinhibition.
Harmful effects of PCP include: 1,3
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased blood pressure, breathing rate or body temperature.
- Loss of appetite.
- Loss of coordination.
- Feelings of suspicion or mistrust in others.
- Inability to feel pain when seriously injured.
- Dry mouth.
- Sleep problems.
- Mood changes.
- Slurred speech.
- Excessive sweating.
- Violent or suicidal behavior. 2
High doses of PCP can cause: 2,3
- Kidney failure.
- Heart arrhythmias.
- Muscle rigidity.
- Symptoms similar to those associated with schizophrenia, such as delusions and/or paranoia.
- Death, generally as a result of suicide or accidental injury.
Long-term use of PCP can cause effects that may last for a year or more after use of the drug. These symptoms can include: 1,2
- Difficulty with speech or thought.
- Memory loss.
- Weight loss.
- Depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
Less common long-term effects include: 1
- Persistent psychosis – This includes visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia and mood changes.
- Flashbacks – Flashbacks are a result of recurring use of PCP. They can come on without warning. Symptoms include seeing trails and other visual disturbances when not on the drug. Some people may experience hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder, which consists of flashbacks that disrupt a person’s daily life and functioning.
Find a Treatment Program for PCP Addiction
Call today to get help finding the right treatment center based on your needs. It’s free to use and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A recovery support specialist will help walk you through the process of selecting the right treatment options in your area.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug Facts: Hallucinogens.
. National Drug Intelligence Center (2006). PCP Fast Facts.
. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2014). Substance Use – Phencyclidine (PCP).
. Mayo Clinic. (2014). Drug Addiction: Symptoms.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug Facts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask.
. U.S. Library of Medicine. (2016). Dual Diagnosis.