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PCP (phencyclidine)

“Angel Dust” Didn’t Come From Heaven

Once again, we have a drug that was developed as a medical anesthetic that eventually found it’s way to becoming one of the most abused drugs available. First introduced for medical use in 1926, PCP (phencyclidine) was discontinued in 1965 due to adverse side effects. Today, however, there is still a high demand for this substance among those who chose to use it illicitly because its sedative effects produce a trance-like, out-of-body sensation that is very appealing to addicts.

On the streets, the most common name for PCP is Angel Dust, but there are a variety of names used, depending on the area of the country, such as: Dips, Peace Pill, Rocket Fuel, Tic Tacs, and Zoom. The innocent sounding names are a long way from being a true depiction of the hell these substances put the user through.

In the US, this drug is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a strong potential for abuse and addiction. It falls under four classifications:

  • Hallucinogen
  • Sedative/Hypnotic
  • Psychotomimetic
  • Dissociative Anesthetic

Visual or auditory hallucinations are common when using PCP, with the added effects of sedation, loss of coordination, and mental impairment.

How is PCP (phencyclidine) Ingested?

The pure or free-base form of PCP is a yellow, oily liquid which, when mixed with various chemicals, turns into crystals or powder that can be insufflated, meaning to blow or breathe into a cavity of the body. A liquid form of PCP is often referred to as “embalming fluid”, and some users dip cigarettes into the liquid and smoke them. This is known as “getting wet” and the cigarette is known as a “happy stick”, “wet stick”, or “dipper”.

Other forms of PCP include tablets, capsules and powders that can be snorted, smoked, swallowed, or injected. Sometimes the liquid form is applied to a leafy green such as parsley, mint, marijuana or tobacco (as in the “wet sticks” mentioned earlier). Some people ingest PCP without realizing it because it is often used as an additive in marijuana, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, MDMA, or LSD.

How Does It Affect the Mind and Body?

PCP (phencyclidine) alters the person’s mental state because it acts as a sedative. This can cause poor coordination, lethargy, inability to concentrate, and memory loss. In rare cases, it has the reverse effect on some people giving a heightened sense of strength, invulnerability, agitation, and aggression.

The effects on the body are often serious and can be life-threatening. The most common effects are sweating, blurred vision, numbness in extremities, lack of coordination, slurred speech, increased blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. Extreme effects can occur such as rigid muscles, including the muscles of the eyes, although the individual is still conscious.

As with any other drug, PCP has a range of short-term and long term effects including, but not limited to the following:

Short-Term Effects Long-Term Effects

  • Sensitivity to light, sound, pain
  • Altered awareness of time, space, body
  • Nausea, vomiting, excessive salivation
  • Alienation, panic, paranoia
  • Problems breathing
  • Muscle rigidity, convulsions
  • Speech problems, stuttering, muteness
  • Depression, anxiety, social phobia
  • Psychosis, schizophrenia
  • Delusions, hallucinations
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Circulatory problems, irregular heartbeats

Many of the above effects put the individual in danger of injury or death when they attempt to do things while under the false perception that they can’t be harmed. For instance, some users have leapt to their death because they thought they could fly. Vision problems and poor coordination can result in a wide range of unintentional accidents. Other users have been hurt or killed, or have hurt or killed someone else after becoming hostile and agitated while under the influence of PCP.

Can Someone Overdose With PCP (phencyclidine)?

Repeated use of any illicit drug can lead to increased tolerance levels, forcing the user to take higher doses to get the desired euphoric effects. When the body reaches a point of being unable to metabolize the high doses, overdose and death are a strong possibility. Some warning signs of PCP overdose include the following:

  • Violent behavior, overly excited
  • Unresponsive, catatonic state
  • Convulsions
  • Uncontrolled movements
  • Hallucinations, psychosis
  • Rapid side-to-side eye movements
  • Altered state of consciousness, coma

These are dangerous symptoms that must not be taken lightly. Contact emergency medical professionals if you witness these symptoms in someone, especially if he/she is known to be using PCP (phencyclidine).

Three Steps Can Set You Free

If you are abusing, or addicted to PCP, there are three things you must do for yourself:

  • Stop denying that you have a problem.
  • Decide to get professional help.
  • Pick up the phone and call a professional today

Once you take these steps, you are on your way to a better life, free from the shackles of addiction. In an inpatient treatment program, a team of caring, highly skilled counselors and staff are there to ensure your safety, comfort, and successful recovery. Their combined expertise and dedication has helped thousands of addicts step back into their lives with a stronger sense of purpose and the skills to build a prosperous future. Wouldn’t you like to be one of those success stories? You can. Call now to find out how.


  1. http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/pcp
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