Phencyclidine or phenylcyclohexyl piperidine (PCP), also known as angel dust among other names, is a drug used for its mind-altering effects. PCP may cause hallucinations, distorted perceptions of sounds, and violent behavior. As a recreational drug, it is typically smoked, but may be taken by mouth, snorted, or injected. It may also be mixed with cannabis or tobacco.
Phencyclidine, or PCP, also known as “angel dust,” is an illegal psychedelic drug that induces hallucinations and produces a feeling of detachment from oneself and one’s surroundings.
Originally developed in the 1950s as a surgical anesthetic, the drug was soon discontinued after it was found to cause agitation and mania, hallucinations, and irrational thinking in patients following its use.
The psychiatric effects vary widely, but it is considered dangerous, and its use has been linked to violent and aggressive actions, psychosis, and a risk of accidental death. An overdose can be life-threatening.
Fast facts on PCP
Here are some key points about PCP. More detail is in the main article.
- PCP is a schedule II, hallucinogenic drug. A hallucinogen alters sensory perception, mood, and thought patterns.
- It has psychological effects and has been linked to bizarre, violent, and psychotic behavior.
- Suddenly stopping PCP use will lead to withdrawal symptoms, including craving and depression.
- Hospitalization is often necessary to help someone stop using PCP.
It is now a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S., because it carries a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. A person may be imprisoned for making, distributing, possessing, and using it.
It is made illegally in secret laboratories, along with dozens of analogs (drugs that are chemically similar) available on the street. It is thought to be made primarily in the United States (U.S.), mostly in Southern California, but it is distributed across the country.
Adverse effects may include seizures, coma, addiction, and an increased risk of suicide. Flashbacks may occur despite stopping usage. Chemically, PCP is a member of the arylcyclohexylamine class, and pharmacologically, it is a dissociative anesthetic. PCP works primarily as an NMDA receptor antagonist. The effects of PCP vary, depending upon the amount of active drug taken and how it is taken.
An individual may use PCP because it produces euphoria, psychedelic effects, and a sense of calm. However, they may experience effects that they do not want.
Soon after taking a low dose, there may be a rise in blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate.
A larger dose will have the opposite effect, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
PCP can cause a person to experience:
- sound, image and body distortion
- depersonalization or feelings of detachment
- loss of balance and coordination
- loss of sensation and inability to feel pain
- acute anxiety, agitation, and mood swings
- feelings of impending doom
- numbness in the arms and legs
Other people may notice that the user is showing:
- poor co-ordination and an unsteady gait
- bloodshot eyes and rapid eye movements
- slurred or garbled speech, or difficulty talking
- confusion and disorientation
- a blank stare
- stupor or lack of movement
- combativeness or aggression
- bizarre behavior