PCP, or phencyclidine, is a synthetic drug that is sold in many forms, including white or colored powder, tablets or capsules. People consume the drug by snorting, smoking or eating it. PCP causes feelings of detachment in users. PCP is both psychologically and physically addictive.

What Is PCP?

PCP is classified as a dissociative drug due to its sedative and anesthetic effects that cause users to feel detached from their environment, or “out of body.”

PCP comes in pill or powder form. Powder delivers a quicker high and is known by many street names, including “rocket fuel,” “embalming fluid,” “superweed” and “angel dust.” PCP can also be snorted in powder form.

The Biology of PCP Addiction

PCP reaches the brain most rapidly when snorted or smoked. It attacks sites known as NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor complexes, the receptors for glutamate. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that helps control pain, cognition and emotion. The neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the “rush” or “high” experienced with the use of most drugs, is also altered with PCP use.

Physical effects of PCP use vary, and range in severity based on the dose consumed. These effects can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration
  • Decreased awareness of pain
  • Disordered thinking
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle contractions
  • Nausea

Users report varying effects from the use of angel dust. PCP typically offers a quick high that lasts for hours, though it can go on for days. The feelings brought about by PCP use are unpredictable, changing with each use, and range from distorted perception of reality to hallucinations and panic.

Addiction and strong withdrawal symptoms are possible with repeated use. Very high doses can lead to convulsions, coma and hyperthermia. Overdosing on PCP can be fatal.

PCP Addiction Risk Factors

While any user can become addicted to PCP, some users are at higher risk for addiction than others. A family history of drug use can put a user at risk for potential PCP addiction, as can psychological issues, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Males are more likely to abuse drugs than females, and adolescents are also at high risk.

PCP Addiction Warning Signs

Signs and symptoms of PCP abuse and addiction include:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Euphoric mood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lying about whereabouts and drug use
  • Panic and paranoia
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Stealing.

In addition to the physical and emotional symptoms discussed above, a person with a PCP addiction may:

  • Be willing to do anything to obtain the drug
  • Feel intense, persistent cravings for the drug
  • Try to quit unsuccessfully.

PCP Addiction Treatments

Several treatment options exist for PCP addiction. Those suffering from PCP addiction may choose from individual therapy, outpatient or residential rehabilitation programs or self-help groups. Withdrawal therapy is not usually necessary.

How to Seek Help

If you or a loved one are suffering from PCP addiction, you may wish to seek the advice of your physician. He can provide the names and contact information of treatment resources in your community.


Drug-Rehabs.com. (n.d.). What are hallucinogens? Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.drug-rehabs.com/hallucinogens-rehab.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Drug addiction. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-addiction/DS00183

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.) PCP/phencyclidine. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/pcp.html

Partnership for a Drug-Free America. (n.d.). PCP. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.drugfree.org/portal/drug_guide/pcp

 Posted on : June 12, 2014