PCP Withdrawal Symptoms

PCP is highly addictive and repeated use will often lead to psychological dependence, cravings, and compulsive drug-seeking behavior.Cravings for PCP can continue even after many months of not using the drug.  When the use of PCP is stopped, individuals will typically experience withdrawal symptoms. Short-term symptoms of PCP withdrawal can be experienced within 8 hours of abstinence and include:2
  • Fear.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Sweating.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle twitching and tremors.
  • Muscle breakdown.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.
  • Hyperactive eye movements.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Acidosis.
The effects PCP withdrawal can last several months to a year after the initial detoxification. Long-term withdrawal symptoms vary based on the duration, frequency, and level of PCP use and may include:2-3 
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Memory loss.
  • Weight loss.
  • Speech impairment.
  • Impaired cognitive function.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Mood disorders.

What is PCP?

Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as angel dust, is a synthetically produced hallucinogen that is used for its mind-altering effects. As a recreational drug, it is typically snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed.4  PCP is a dissociative drug that induces distortion of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment. The effects of PCP on the body include:2-5 
  • Auditory hallucinations.
  • Image distortion.
  • Disorientation.
  • Delirium.
  • Sedation and immobility.
  • Amnesia.
  • Analgesia (relief from pain).
  • Numbness of the extremities.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Sense of strength, power, and invulnerability.
  • Rapid and involuntary eye movements.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Rapid and shallow breathing.
  • Elevated heart rate and temperature.

Treatment Options

PCP binds to brain and fat tissue in the body, causing the drug to take several days to clear from the body, much longer than most other hallucinogenic drugs.2 Because it can be bound into brain tissue, the withdrawal effects can be long-lasting and especially uncomfortable.  If you or someone you love is seeking recovery from PCP, a medically supervised detox will be needed to overcome the painful withdrawal symptoms and any arising serious mental health issues.  In the early stages of PCP withdrawal, benzodiazepines may be administered to control psychiatric symptoms such as agitation or seizures. After the completion of detox, further rehabilitation will be needed to prevent relapse.  It is recommended to undergo addiction therapy in an inpatient rehab center, as this will eliminate any temptation of drugs while receiving treatment. In most cases, a treatment program will consist of a combination of group therapy, individual therapy, and support groups.  A commonly utilized component of treatment programs for PCP addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of psychotherapy treatment teaches individuals how to identify and correct problematic behaviors, recognize and avoid triggers for abuse, and cope with cravings, stress, and other issues that may lead to relapse.6 

Sources

  1. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (2019). Drug Facts: PCP (Phencyclidine).
  2. Bey, T., & Patel, A. (2007). Phencyclidine intoxication and adverse effects: a clinical and pharmacological review of an illicit drug. The California Journal of Emergency Medicine, 8(1):9-14.
  3. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Phencyclidine (PCP).
  4. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (2019). Phencyclidine.
  5. Spielewoy, C., & Markou, A. (2003). Withdrawal from chronic phencyclidine treatment induces long-lasting depression in brain reward function. Neuropsychopharmacology, 28(6), 1106-1116.
  6. McHugh, R.K., Hearon, B.A., & Otto, M.W. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorders. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33(3):511-525.
Last Updated on February 4, 2020
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