Phencyclidine (PCP) is a dissociative anesthetic and synthetic drug with a potential to cause some of the most dangerous effects, when abused. It was introduced as a medical dissociative anesthetic in the 1950s, however, its use was decreased after patients started reporting severe anxiety, agitation and hallucinations symptoms after use. Also called angel dust, its popularity returned recreationally in the 1970s owing to its psychedelic escapist effects, but again faded with growing links to aggressiveness, violence and suicidal episodes among users.
Today, PCP still surfaces in illicit drug markets: misrepresented, mixed in and sold as ecstasy, MDMA, or other popular “club drugs.” A Schedule II drug, it is one of the only illicit drugs on the clinical radar till date that can cause long-term psychological damage with even minimal usage.
An addictive substance known to have severe short-term and long-term effects, PCP abuse can lead to tolerance and physical dependence on the drug. When stopped suddenly after continued or frequent use, the users may also experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including chills, diarrhea and tremors. However, when diagnosed and treated in time, individuals abusing the drug respond well to addiction treatment. A leader in providing comprehensive and evidence-based treatment for substance abuse, mental health and co-occurring disorders, Sovereign Health provides its clients with a holistic treatment for PCP abuse and addiction.
PCP is available in the black market in various forms, with the color depending on the purity. However, it is typically sold as a bitter, crystalline powder. When used in the powder form, it is consumed through an eye drop injection, or ingested orally, snorted or smoked along with tobacco, marijuana or other herbs. When snorted or smoked, its effects can last for as long as six hours. When consumed orally, the feeling of “high” can be experienced for almost 24 hours. PCP’s effects can vary drastically due to its synthetic composition and adulterants, hence, consuming high quantity of the drug is likely to cause an overdose and produce a range of dangerous physical and psychological effects.
PCP abuse: signs and symptoms
Originally developed as a surgical anesthetic, PCP can cause its users to experience hallucinogenic and sedating effects. Hallucinations are typically followed by confusion and disruption to a person’s sense of time and being.
Following are some of the signs and symptoms of its abuse:
- Elevated body temperature
- Panic and terror
- Mood swings
- Slurred speech
- Rigid muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Volleying in blood pressure
Some other symptoms that a person abusing PCP may experience include the inability to think clearly, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, impaired memory, isolation and withdrawal.
PCP abuse: red flags
Because of the physical and psychological health effects of PCP abuse, recognizing the warning signs of development of an addiction is important so that the same can be managed and overcome before it is late. Following are some of the warning signs or red flags of PCP abuse:
- Appearing drunk – staggering, slurred speech
- Highly erratic behavior
- Invincible self-perception
- Imperviousness to pain
- Rapid changes in emotion – from apathy to severe agitation
Effects on the body
PCP works by suppressing the brain’s pain receptor glutamate. A powerful excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate is responsible for sending signals between nerve cells and controlling emotional and memory function. It also has an effect on the neurotransmitter dopamine, a participant of the brain’s reward system and the prime agent maintaining sleep, mood, movement, attention, behavior, and cognitive functions.
The dopamine release and the resultant flood of euphoric feelings during the state of “high” make people dependent on PCP in spite of being aware of its other side effects. Long-term use of the drug can lead to chronic speech difficulties, vivid flashbacks, long-term psychosis, and hallucinations, even years after the last use. One of the most infamous qualities of the drug is its link with violence. Media images of drug users imbued with incredible strength during violent rages are no longer a hype. It can also cause visual and auditory hallucinogenic effects, coupled with dissociative qualities, which can make users completely unaware of their surroundings.
Owing to its extremely addictive nature and severe side effects that it causes, the treatment for PCP addiction must be comprehensive and brain restorative; alternatives to abuse must help recovered users unlock their brain’s pleasure centers in a sober and sound way. And the first step to it is PCP detox treatment.