PCP Addiction and Recovery Facts
Phencyclidine, or PCP, was originally created as an anesthetic. But human use was discontinued due to post-operative delusions and agitation. 1 Although PCP is legal for use in animals, it is rarely used in veterinary settings. 2
Today, people abuse PCP for its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects.
What Is PCP?
PCP is a dissociative anesthetic that was developed in the 1950s for surgical purposes. But it began to be sold on the streets in the 1960s, 3 and it is now illegal for use in humans. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, 4 which means that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence.
Pure PCP is a white, crystal-like powder. On the streets, it may have a tan or brown color or be sold as a clear, yellowish liquid in vanilla extract bottles. 4, 2
PCP causes hallucinations and feelings of detachment in those who abuse it.
Some common street names for PCP include: 4
- Angel dust.
- Animal tranquilizer.
- Peace pill.
- Rocket fuel.
- Super kools.
Methods of PCP Use
PCP is available in a number of different forms, including: 5
- Capsule or tablet.
PCP can be snorted, injected, smoked, or taken orally in capsule or tablet form. 4 It can also be mixed in a cigarette with dried plant materials such as marijuana, tobacco, oregano, mint, or parsley. 5 Sometimes pills sold as Ecstasy or MDMA may have PCP in them as well. 5
Additional forms of use include eye drops or absorption through the skin. 4
PCP can produce a variety of effects in users, including psychotic symptoms. The effects of PCP are dose-dependent, which means that they will change and/or intensify as the dose increases, and may also differ depending on the route of administration.
In general, the effects of PCP will be experienced within 1-5 minutes if the drug is smoked or injected and within about 30 minutes if it is snorted or orally ingested. 4 Intoxication can last from 4-6 hours, and it may take 24 hours for the effects to completely wear off. 4
Smoking or injecting PCP will result in the most rapid onset of short-term effects. 4
The range of short-term effects includes: 4
- Euphoria or feeling of well-being.
- Pain relief.
- Distorted sensory perception.
- Feelings of invulnerability and strength.
- Feelings of detachment.
In addition to short-term effects, PCP can produce many adverse or unpleasant effects, such as: 4
- Excessive anxiety.
- Psychotic symptoms, including paranoia.
- Concentration problems.
- Amnesia or memory loss.
- Bizarre behaviors.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Rise in body temperature.
- Excessive sweating.
- Blurred vision.
- Speech problems.
- Loss of body control.
Chronic PCP users can experience several long-term effects, which can last for years. 6 These potential complications include: 4, 6
- Memory loss.
- Speech and cognition problems.
- Weight loss.
- Abnormal liver function.
- Rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle tissue, which can lead to kidney failure).
- Social withdrawal or isolation.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Interpersonal or social problems.
- Financial hardships.
- Chronic absenteeism from school or work.
- Job loss.
- Child neglect.
- Loss of custody.
- Exacerbation of physical and mental health problems.
Signs and Symptoms of PCP Addiction
A PCP addiction (diagnosed as phencyclidine use disorder) is characterized by problematic PCP use that leads to impairment in the user’s life. 3
The signs and symptoms include: 3
- A larger amount of PCP is used than previously intended.
- The user experiences failed attempts to cut back or quit using PCP.
- Excessive time is spent getting PCP, using it, and recovering from side effects.
- The user has strong urges to use PCP.
- PCP is abused despite school, work, or home consequences.
- PCP is used in spite of social or interpersonal issues worsened or caused by the substance.
- PCP is abused in favor of important social, occupational, or recreational activities.
- Use of PCP in perilous situations, such as while driving a car.
- PCP is used in spite of physical and psychological problems exacerbated or caused by the drug.
- The user needs more PCP to achieve the desired results, or the same dose produces a diminished effect.
- The user experiences withdrawal symptoms when he or she quits using, or uses to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
American Addiction Centers has helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you or your loved one too. Check your insurance to find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies. You can also sign up 24/7 text support for addiction questions at your convenience.
A user can overdose on PCP if he or she takes a high dose of the drug. An overdose can result in psychosis, coma, or death if unrecognized and untreated. 7 Other possible consequences involve self-injury and violent behavior, such as homicide and assaults.
Common signs of a PCP overdose include: 7
- Psychosis, or a loss of contact with reality.
- Trance-like state (lack of reacting, moving, or talking).
- Uncontrolled eye movements.
Someone who has overdosed on PCP is a danger to both himself or herself and others in close proximity. 7 If you suspect someone has overdosed on PCP, do not approach the user if he or she is agitated or violent. 7 Keep a safe distance and call 911 immediately. When you call 911, have the following information ready, if possible: 7
- Amount of PCP used.
- Time it was used.
- Person’s age, weight, and current condition.
- Emergency department visits involving PCP increased over 400% between 2005 and 2011. 8
- 45% of emergency department visits in 2011 involved 25- to 34-year-olds. 8
- In 2011, nearly half of PCP-related emergency department visits involved other illegal substances. 8
- About 0.2% of people ages 12 to 17 have reported using PCP at least once. 9
- Almost 1% of people ages 18 to 25 have reported using PCP at some point in their lives. 9
- Nearly 3% of people ages 26 or older have reported using PCP during their lifetime. 9
Find Treatment for PCP Addiction
If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to PCP, call our helpline at to speak to a treatment support specialist about recovery options.