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PCP Abuse & Addiction

Phencyclidine, better known as PCP, is a drug that alters the mind and causes individuals to become agitated, irrational, and delusional. It is abused for its hallucinogenic and dissociative properties, and it can cause profound mind-altering effects.1 It was originally developed as an intravenous anesthetic, but it was discontinued because of serious adverse effects.2 Understanding the drug, its effects, its risks of use, and treatment options are important steps in the fight against PCP use and abuse, whether for yourself or a loved one.

This page will provide more insight into PCP, its addictive nature, its effects, signs of PCP abuse, how PCP addiction is treated, and whether you can use your insurance plan to obtain PCP addiction treatment and rehab.


What is PCP Addiction?

Drug addiction is the continued, compulsive use of drugs, including dissociative drugs like PCP, despite serious negative consequences, such as health, work, school, and relationship problems.3 Addiction is a treatable medical illness that affects the brain and changes behaviors such as self-control.3

Several drugs are grouped under the hallucinogen category, including PCP. Hallucinogen and dissociative drug use in the United States is a public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 6.0 million people in the United States aged 12 or older misused hallucinogens in the past year.4 So more than 6 million people struggled with the compulsive use of hallucinogens including PCP in the last year.


Checking Your Insurance Benefits

If you are looking for PCP addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming. As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , click here, or fill out the form below.


What is PCP?

PCP is a dangerous, man-made, illegal drug. The drug was discontinued from medical use after it was noted that patients were experiencing adverse mental health effects when they would emerge from surgery.1,2,5,6 Today, PCP is not legally made in the U.S. and has no approved medical uses.

PCP has powerful dissociative and hallucinogenic properties, meaning it can cause both hallucinations and feelings of being separated from your body and surrounding.7 The effects of PCP vary greatly depending upon the purity and amount used, with side effects ranging from a pleasant sensory disconnection to coma or even death.1,2,5,6

PCP is a white powder in its pure state; however, street forms may have a yellow or brownish tint due to the illegal manufacturing process. PCP has a distinct ammonia-like odor, which is so strong that the term “embalming fluid” was added as a common PCP street name.1,2 Other common street names for PCP include:1,2

  • Angel Dust.
  • Peace Pills.
  • Hog.
  • Sherm, or Shermans.
  • Crystal.

PCP can be snorted, injected, smoked, or ingested, with smoking typically the preferred method, and it provides rapid effects to the user.


Is PCP Addictive?

PCP is a Schedule II substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and use may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.2 So does PCP have the potential to be addictive? Yes, PCP can be addictive.5,9

People who use PCP may become psychologically addicted to it, meaning their mind is dependent on it and they cannot control their use of PCP. Addiction can lead to tolerance, which occurs when an individual needs more PCP to have the same effect they were previously able to achieve.7

Research has shown that continued use of PCP can lead to tolerance and the development of a substance use disorder (SUD) that includes a withdrawal syndrome if drug use ceases.8 Individuals who stop using PCP after continual use may experience withdrawal symptoms including:7,8

  • Drug cravings.
  • Sweating.
  • Headaches.
  • Feelings of fear, unease, and anxiety.
  • Feelings of excitement, agitation, confusion.
  • Having hallucinations.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of PCP Addiction?

As a dissociative drug, PCP distorts the sights and sounds that the user experiences and provides a feeling of disconnection from the body and reality.1 This disconnected feeling is often referred to as a “trip” by users and is accompanied by hallucinations. This feeling of being separate from the world around them and even themselves can make PCP users appear distant to family and friends.

When someone begins using drugs, close family and friends may notice both physical and emotional changes. There are some common physical and behavioral changes you may witness if a family member, friend, or loved one is using PCP.

Physical signs include:1,2,5

  • Decreased responsiveness.
  • Disorientation to time and place.
  • Agitation, excitement, or self-harming behavior.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Open eyes with a blank stare.
  • Rapid, uncontrolled movement of the eyes.
  • Uncoordinated body movements.
  • Restlessness or fidgety behavior.
  • Increased salivation; drooling.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Behavioral symptoms include:1,2,5

  • Social withdrawal.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Violent outbursts.

What are the Health Risks of PCP Abuse?

PCP side effects of long-term use may include:8,9

  • Continual speech difficulties.
  • Memory loss.
  • Anxiety.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Seizures.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

While the dissociative and hallucinogenic effects of PCP may be pleasurable, the drug is also associated with negative, potentially dangerous side effects, as well as social consequences. These side effects vary depending on dosage and length of time the drug is used. Some typical side effects seen in PCP users include:2,5,7-9

  • Drowsiness.
  • Immobility.
  • Seizures.
  • Amnesia.
  • Feelings of detachment.
  • Numbness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • False sense of strength.
  • Blank stare, or rapid/involuntary eye movements.
  • Appearing catatonic.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Variations in blood pressure.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Psychosis.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

PCP can impair memory and thinking in long-term users, and may cause memory, reasoning ability, judgment, and common sense to fade.


How Do I Get Help for PCP Addiction?

While it can be difficult to overcome an addiction to PCP, it can be effectively managed.10,11 There is not one type of facility or program that is suitable for everyone.10 Addiction treatment should address both your substance abuse and the various ways it has negatively impacted your life, including physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.10,11

There are various types of treatment options available to address the wide range of needs that people experience.12 Programs typically provide an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs. They often use a combination of different techniques to address your addiction and how it has affected you.12

These can include:10-12

  • Residential treatment, where you live at a facility, and receive care and/or support around the clock. This is a structured setting with counseling, support, and a strong emphasis on peer and social interactions.
  • Inpatient treatment typically involves a shorter stay at a facility—often around 4 weeks —with around-the-clock monitoring and care, intense group therapy, and individual counseling.
  • Outpatient treatment offers less intensive group and individual counseling while you live at home. This type of care allows you to work, attend school, and participate in daily life while learning how to adjust to stressors and receiving the support of peers and staff.
  • Behavioral therapy in a group, individual, and/or family settings is highly effective for treating addiction to hallucinogens, dissociative drugs, and other substances. These techniques can help you learn how to stay sober, improve your relationships with others, cope with stress in healthy ways, and participate in positive activities.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders, which addresses mental health disorders at the same time as a substance use disorder, is generally more effective than treating these issues separately. Therapy, medications, and other supportive services are commonly utilized in this type of treatment.

If you are seeking PCP treatment in the United States, you have a wide array of options including private rehab facilities, state-run treatment facilities, and local treatment programs. There are also support groups that can help you as you work toward becoming sober and maintaining that sobriety. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a mutual support group that offers people the opportunity to use peer bond, sponsor relationships, and self-expression to work toward sobriety. There are also non-12-step programs available that offer alternatives to NA.


Where Can I Learn More about Treating PCP Addiction?

For more information about PCP abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for PCP abuse treatment.

There are various treatment programs and strategies available for PCP addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs. To learn more about PCP addiction treatment, click here.


Sources

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020). Phencyclidine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Commonly Used Drug Charts: PCP.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Hallucinogens DrugFacts.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs Research Report: Common Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.
  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). MedlinePlus: Substance use – phencyclidine (PCP).
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs Research Report: What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body?
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Hallucinogens: Just the Facts.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). The National Institute on Drug Abuse media guide.
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment approaches for drug addiction.

More resources about PCP Abuse & Addiction: