How to Stop PCP Cravings, Prevent Relapse and Find Help

Last updated on

Managing PCP Cravings and Avoiding Relapse

Phencyclidine (PCP) belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. PCP’s effects can be reinforcing to the user, and the drug has addictive potential. People who abuse PCP can experience cravings that may make quitting difficult.

This article will discuss PCP cravings and how to prevent a relapse, including:

What Are Cravings?

Unlike other hallucinogens, PCP can be addictive. People who abuse it can develop psychological dependence – meaning that they have trouble controlling their use of it and feel that they need it to function. 1

When someone who has been dependent on PCP stops using it, they may experience cravings to use the drug.4 The cravings associated with PCP addiction can be intense and vary per individual. They depend on the duration and severity of addiction and the person’s overall physical and mental wellbeing.

Cravings typically arise during the withdrawal period and/or as a result of triggers:

  • During withdrawal.Cravings can occur as the drug is leaving the individual’s system. This is why it can be helpful to detox from PCP under medical supervision. By doing so, you have access to immediate medical care, counseling and support that can reduce symptoms associated with cravings and withdrawal.
  • Triggers. Various situations can also cause cravings to occur. These are called triggers. Triggers are people, places, things or memories that cause a person to want to use a drug again. 1 A treatment program can help people addicted to PCP understand their triggers, deal with them and prevent relapse.

Having a craving does not mean that a person will begin abusing PCP again. However, a person experiencing PCP cravings can benefit from support or coping strategies to help manage the craving or minimize the risk a relapse.

Signs and Symptoms

Users may have an intense need for the drug or be nervous about daily interactions without it.

Signs and symptoms of cravings include: 2

  • Somatic feelings, such as feelings in the stomach for the drug, heart racing, or believing you can smell the drug.
  • Cognitive feelings, such as an intense need for the drug or not being able to get the thought of the drug out of your head.
  • Emotional feelings, such as being nervous about daily interactions without the drug.

Other symptoms that may occur with PCP cravings during withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety, fear and unease.
  • Confusion.
  • Irritability.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Weight loss.
  • Seizures.
  • Increased body temperature. 1

Treatments for PCP Cravings

Behavioral therapies are usually the most successful in helping people manage cravings. The core of these programs focuses on the individual’s behavior and attitudes toward the drug, as well as tackling the underlying causes of addiction.

Man getting treatment for PCP cravings

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the maladaptive thoughts associated with addiction and helps the user understand how these influence feelings and behaviors. Some CBT techniques used to help people cope with cravings include self-talk, avoiding trigger situations and distraction.
  • Mindfulness – Mindfulness focuses on living in the moment and being aware of your thoughts and feelings. It can help reduce cravings and other factors associated with addiction by educating users to respond to cravings with awareness and letting the urge pass.

These therapies can be provided in various environments, from inpatient and outpatient to group settings, such as:

  • Inpatient – This intensive level of treatment can be both short- and long-term, depending on the severity of the addiction. Inpatient treatment centers offer 24-hour care under medical supervision that often begins with detoxification. Those with more severe addiction and withdrawal symptoms will benefit from treatment offered in an inpatient setting.
  • Outpatient – This level of treatment can include individual and group therapy and can vary in length and intensity. Many people transition to ongoing outpatient care after completing an inpatient or residential treatment program.
  • Individual therapy- One-on-one therapy with a licensed counselor or psychologist can also be helpful in managing cravings. A therapist can help you develop personalized techniques for managing cravings and monitor your progress.
  • Group therapy- Group therapy or counseling is conducted with groups of individuals with similar issues. The sessions are moderated by licensed clinicians, counselors or psychologists. People struggling with PCP cravings can share their experience with others and get helpful tips and support.
  • 12-step programs – Twelve-step programs build on a social network and a predetermined set of recovery steps to promote drug-free lifestyles. Examples of these programs include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. People with PCP cravings can discuss cravings with their group or call their sponsor when they feel an urge to use.

Medications Used to Curb PCP Cravings

No federally approved medications exist for the treatment of PCP addiction or cravings. However, some medications might be prescribed to manage conditions that may contribute to the addictive process, such as depression, anxiety or other co-morbidities.

Some medications may also be used to help eliminate or calm symptoms associated with PCP withdrawal, especially during detox. Tricyclic antidepressants such as desipramine may help reduce some of the psychological symptoms associated with quitting PCP. 3

How to Stop Urges Naturally

Find Programs to Help Manage PCP Cravings

If you or someone you care about is experiencing PCP cravings and at risk of a relapse, call 1-888-319-2606

Helpline Information to find a treatment program today.

In addition to treatment, there are some ways that you can help stop or minimize the feelings associated with cravings, such as:

  • Hobbies- Finding new ways to occupy the time you previously spent using PCP will help immensely in your recovery. Examples of hobbies include reading, writing, crafts, hiking or cooking.
  • Exercise – Participating in some form of exercise can also assist with recovery. Exercise releases endorphins that relieve stress. When combined with CBT, exercise can help curb cravings. It can also help reduce the effects of depression and other mood disorders, which are often an underlying cause of addiction and can even lead to cravings.
  • Eat well – A healthy diet can help your body recover from the effects of PCP. 1
  • Meditation and yoga- These activities can reduce stress and anxiety in addition to increasing self-compassion.

Cravings and Relapse

woman hiding from man
Intense cravings are difficult to ignore, and they can lead many people to relapse. Possible signs of relapse or warnings of impending relapse include:

  • Hanging out with old friends who still abuse drugs.
  • Stopping attendance at therapy or at recovery meetings.
  • Isolating yourself and avoiding loved ones.
  • Thinking that you can use “just once” and be fine.

Don’t ignore the signs listed above. If you notice them in yourself or in a loved one, seek help from a healthcare professional and/or support group right away.

Preventing Relapse

Other ways to prevent relapse include:

  • Develop an aftercare plan – Talk to your healthcare provider or case manager to help set up an aftercare plan that covers what to do and who to contact if you feel a craving. Other items a continuing care plan can include are individual therapy, community or family-based supports, sober living arrangements and a commitment to attend 12-step meetings.
  • Build a support system- A support system of friends or family members you can trust can help support you when cravings arise.
  • Call your sponsor, recovery coach or peer mentor – A sponsor is someone who can mentor you and help guide you through the recovery process. Recovery coaches and peer mentors are trained individuals with life experiences who aid in the recovery process.
  • Call your addiction counselor – If you are working with an individual or group therapist, call them when you are experiencing a craving or otherwise struggling with your recovery and set up an appointment to discuss it.
  • Avoid triggers – As mentioned above, triggers are people, places or things that can cause you to crave PCP. Become aware of what your triggers are, and take steps to avoid them. Some triggers, such as life events, are unavoidable. In these cases, it helps to have a plan for how you will deal with them without PCP.

Find a Recovery Center for PCP Addiction

Finding a treatment program doesn’t have to be difficult. Locate the right treatment center based on your needs by calling our helpline at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information . The number is free to use and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sympathetic and well-trained individuals will answer your call and walk you through the process of selecting the appropriate treatment options in your area.


[1]. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2014). Substance use – Phencyclidine (PCP).

[2]. Carroll, K.M. (1998). Therapy Manuals for Drug Addiction: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

[3]. Tennant FS, Rawson RA, McCann M. (1981). Withdrawal from chronic phencyclidine dependence with desipramine. Am J Psychiatry. 128:845-847.

[4]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). DrugFacts: What are hallucinogens?

Ready to get help? Insurance covers treatment.

Check My Coverage

We’re available 24/7. Call us now.

1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information

Ready to get help? Get help today.

Helpline Information