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. Popular for its ability to cause the user to detach and disassociate from their surroundings, it produces a strong feeling of euphoria. The Schedule II controlled substance goes by several street names such as:
- Angel dust
- Super grass
- Peace pills
- Animal trank
- Sherm sticks
- Embalming fluid
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The drug is known for uncomfortable withdrawal effects, producing delusions, irritability, and anxiety when “coming down.” PCP can be in liquid form, yellow or clear in color, or in a power 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. Reports of drug users have included combining PCP with tobacco as they “dip marijuana or tobacco” in embalming fluid speculated to be PCP.
PCP can be smoked, snorted, taken orally, sprinkled on other drugs or injected.
Phencyclidine is addictive as it impacts the brain’s chemical composition. Upon ingesting PCP, people experience joy, and the perception of clear thinking. Typically, people can feel results of PCP rather quickly depending on how they have taken the substance. For instance, someone injecting PCP can feel the effects in 2 to 5 minutes; smoking PCP can be felt in the same amount of time, lasting to half an hour. Lastly, if someone swallows it, they can feel it in 30 minutes, with intense side effects occurring at 2 to 5 hours.
Because of the altered states of existence people feel under the influence of PCP, many can become dependent on the drug, especially individuals seeking sensory distortions or pseudo-spiritual experiences. People taking PCP also experience mood changes and poor coordination. Side effects of PCP vary based on small and large doses. Common symptoms of PCP addiction are:
- Exaggerated strength
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Feelings of detachment
- Rapid respiration rate
- Memory loss
- Physical and psychological distress
- Muscle cramps
- Loss of coordination
- Extreme fear or panic
Every person will have an unpredictable, varying experience on PCP due to the different symptoms that may occur on each trip. Therefore, someone may use PCP and become aggressive, and someone else may become overly empathetic or anxious. It is very hard to distinguish with PCP which symptoms will occur because it often depends on the mental state the user is in before they take them.
Other signs of PCP addiction are the inability to control one’s intake or increasing one’s PCP intake. Such challenges can create long-term effects lasting up to a year like suicidal thoughts, mania, flashbacks, and social isolation.
PCP is especially dangerous to mix with alcohol or other depressants because it can lead to respiratory distress or arrest, resulting in death.
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Examining Modern PCP Use
The days of heavy PCP use have slowly made a comeback. Previous decades boasted heavy PCP use; however, modern use of PCP in increasing as well. PCP is currently especially popular in the form of a yellow liquid. Some consumers are young teens who soak PCP in cigarettes. Like many harmful substances, early exposure to drugs like PCP deeply affect the mind. Teens have a higher risk of developing a psychosis later on in life if they abuse PCP.
A Washington D.C. report mentioned “10% of adults within D.C.’s justice system tested positive for the drug.” Additional findings revealed 1% of 12th grade students had PCP 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 these numbers, while the most common ages were between 25 to 39 years of age in 2011. 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. 2017 statistics revealed 2.2% of people aged 12 and older had experienced PCP use in their lifetime, and 2.7% of people aged 26 and older had used PCP in their lifetime.
PCP Withdrawal and Treatment
Once someone becomes dependent or addicted to PCP and suddenly stops, they will endure painful withdrawal symptoms. People suffering PCP use disorders suffer confusion, increased appetite, depression and increased cravings for PCP. 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 as they are in a safe environment to heal and be supervised. There are medications people in rehab have access to which make withdrawal less uncomfortable.
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PCP abuse can have many damaging effects on the mind and body. Finding help and getting treatment is key in investing in your health and wellness. If you or a loved one struggles with PCP abuse, or dips cigarettes in PCP liquids, contact a treatment expert. People considering rehab have many treatment options and can explore what are available. Contact a dedicated treatment specialist now to find out more.
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