Originally developed as a surgical anesthetic in the 1950s, phencyclidine (PCP) can act as a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen. It is most often found as a crystalline white, off-white, or yellowish powder, although it can sometimes be found in capsule or pill form, masquerading as a black market prescription drug.
PCP is no longer a legal drug in the US, and it is not produced in the country; it is typically manufactured in clandestine drug labs outside the country.
One of the more popular methods for consuming PCP is rolling it into, or sprinkling it onto, a cigarette, joint, or an herb in rolling papers. Some people snort, eat, or inject the drug. The intoxicating effects from PCP set in quickly, and they can last for 5-8 hours.
Effects of PCP intoxication can vary, depending on how much of the drug a person consumes. The person may feel relaxed, euphoric, pain-free, or emotionally numb. They may appear drunk, lose muscle coordination, slur their speech, and get dizzy. When a person consumes a lot of PCP, they may have a blank stare, shiver or twitch, or repeat movements like rocking back and forth. Large doses of the drug lead to hallucinations.
The drug can cause people to physically harm themselves, either because of paranoid hallucinations or because of numbness in their body. It can cause serious mental harm, and it can be difficult to come down from the drug. PCP also leads to serious long-term health consequences that are both mental and physical.
People who struggle with PCP abuse suffer changes to their brain structure, which lead to memory problems, trouble with concentration and perception, and difficulty with judgment. These issues can persist even after they have detoxed from the drug. They may also suffer flashbacks, in which they suffer the drug’s effects without being intoxicated, are prone to depression and anxiety, and may experience auditory or visual hallucinations without taking PCP. In cases of people already at risk for the disorder, psychosis may be triggered after taking PCP.
When a person struggles with PCP addiction for a long time, their speech will change, and they may develop speech impediments. This could be tied to some physical changes, or it could be related to memory and cognitive dysfunction. These brain changes can last for up to one year after a person detoxes from PCP.
Of course, those who take large doses of PCP for a long time put themselves at risk for tolerance, dependence, and addiction. A high tolerance to the drug, and/or a physical need for the drug, puts the person at a greater risk of overdose and lasting physical harm. Going without the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, aches, and mental health changes.
One of the major problems with taking PCP regularly is that many people who abuse this drug go on binges, often called “runs” – something that is similar to “tweaking” among people who struggle with meth abuse. A person may take PCP several times, for two or three days during which the person does not sleep or eat. The run is followed by a long period of sleep. This can cause serious malnutrition and mental health damage. A person on a PCP run may experience damage to internal organs from failing to eat or drink enough, or they could accidentally hurt themselves. People who struggle with PCP abuse may go on runs up to four times per month.
Abusing PCP for a long time can lead to physical harm from falls, cuts, bruises, or burns. It can also induce delusions, including a feeling of invincibility or invulnerability. Since the drug leads the user to feel numb or painless, accidental self-harm occurs often. This can lead to physical disfigurement or even disability.High doses of PCP are likely to cause an overdose. One of the consequences from this kind of poisoning includes rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition that causes the breakdown of skeletal muscles and can lead to kidney damage. Injecting PCP can transmit disease. The most common needle-sharing diseases and issues are:
About 70 percent of people who struggle with PCP addiction inhale the drug, either via smoking or snorting it. Smoking causes a variety of cancers, including lung, throat, mouth, stomach, and bladder cancer. Snorting damages the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, as well as the upper respiratory system; this can cause holes in the palate, damage to oral health, and upper lung infections.
Short-term side effects from PCP, when it behaves as a stimulant, include tachycardia and hypertension. Consistent increases in heart rate and blood pressure can cause damage to the cardiovascular system, leading to a later heart attack or stroke.
People who are intoxicated on PCP may experience irregular breathing, and this reduced level of oxygen can, if it occurs often, lead to damage to many organ systems.
Women who are pregnant and struggling with PCP abuse will cause harm to their unborn child. Exposure to PCP in the womb changes how the child develops. For example, the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord – will develop irregularly because of the presence of the intoxicating drug. The child may also be born prematurely and can suffer respiratory distress when they are born because the drug stops the lungs from completely developing. The baby may also suffer withdrawal symptoms when born, including tremors, crying, and lethargy. In infants, withdrawal symptoms may be fatal.
Getting help from medical professionals is the best way to overcome an addiction to PCP, and it is important to go through supervised detox and rehabilitation before long-lasting harm occurs. Doctors can supervise the withdrawal process to keep patient safe, and a rehabilitation program offers fantastic social support while clients work to overcome their addiction.