PCP Addiction and Recovery Facts

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Phencyclidine, or PCP, was originally created as an anesthetic. But human use was discontinued due to post-operative delusions and agitation. 1 Although PCP is legal for use in animals, it is rarely used in veterinary settings. 2

Today, people abuse PCP for its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects.

What Is PCP?

PCP is a dissociative anesthetic that was developed in the 1950s for surgical purposes. But it began to be sold on the streets in the 1960s, 3 and it is now illegal for use in humans. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, 4 which means that it has a high potential for abuse and dependence.

Pure PCP is a white, crystal-like powder. On the streets, it may have a tan or brown color or be sold as a clear, yellowish liquid in vanilla extract bottles. 4, 2

PCP causes hallucinations and feelings of detachment in those who abuse it.

Street Names

Some common street names for PCP include: 4

  • Angel dust.
  • Animal tranquilizer.
  • Dust.
  • Elephant.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Fry.
  • Ozone.
  • Peace pill.
  • Rocket fuel.
  • Super kools.
  • TicTac.
  • Tranq.
  • Water.
  • Wet.

Street names may change with time and vary according to geographic location.

Methods of PCP Use

PCP can be snorted, injected, smoked, or taken orally.

PCP is available in a number of different forms, including: 5

  • Powder.
  • Liquid.
  • Capsule or tablet.
  • Crystal.

PCP can be snorted, injected, smoked, or taken orally in capsule or tablet form. 4 It can also be mixed in a cigarette with dried plant materials such as marijuana, tobacco, oregano, mint, or parsley. 5 Sometimes pills sold as Ecstasy or MDMA may have PCP in them as well. 5

Additional forms of use include eye drops or absorption through the skin. 4

PCP Effects

sedated man on PCP

PCP can produce a variety of effects in users, including psychotic symptoms. The effects of PCP are dose-dependent, which means that they will change and/or intensify as the dose increases, and may also differ depending on the route of administration.

In general, the effects of PCP will be experienced within 1-5 minutes if the drug is smoked or injected and within about 30 minutes if it is snorted or orally ingested. 4 Intoxication can last from 4-6 hours, and it may take 24 hours for the effects to completely wear off. 4

Short-Term Effects

Smoking or injecting PCP will result in the most rapid onset of short-term effects. 4

The range of short-term effects includes: 4

  • Calmness.
  • Euphoria or feeling of well-being.
  • Pain relief.
  • Lethargy.
  • Distorted sensory perception.
  • Sedation.
  • Feelings of invulnerability and strength.
  • Feelings of detachment.
  • Hallucinations.

Side Effects

In addition to short-term effects, PCP can produce many adverse or unpleasant effects, such as: 4

  • Vomiting.
  • Nausea.
  • Excessive anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Seizures.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Psychotic symptoms, including paranoia.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Amnesia or memory loss.
  • Bizarre behaviors.
  • Violence.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Rise in body temperature.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Speech problems.
  • Incoordination.
  • Loss of body control.
  • Stupor.

Long-Term Effects

Chronic PCP users can experience several long-term effects, which can last for years. 6 These potential complications include: 4, 6

  • Memory loss.
  • Speech and cognition problems.
  • Weight loss.
  • Abnormal liver function.
  • Rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle tissue, which can lead to kidney failure).
  • Anxiety.
  • Social withdrawal or isolation.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Other problems that can arise from long-term substance abuse include:

  • Interpersonal or social problems.
  • Financial hardships.
  • Chronic absenteeism from school or work.
  • Job loss.
  • Child neglect.
  • Loss of custody.
  • Divorce.
  • Exacerbation of physical and mental health problems.

Signs and Symptoms of PCP Addiction

A PCP addiction (diagnosed as phencyclidine use disorder) is characterized by problematic PCP use that leads to impairment in the user’s life. 3

The signs and symptoms include: 3

  • A larger amount of PCP is used than previously intended.
  • The user experiences failed attempts to cut back or quit using PCP.
  • Excessive time is spent getting PCP, using it, and recovering from side effects.
  • The user has strong urges to use PCP.
  • PCP is abused despite school, work, or home consequences.
  • PCP is used in spite of social or interpersonal issues worsened or caused by the substance.
  • PCP is abused in favor of important social, occupational, or recreational activities.
  • Use of PCP in perilous situations, such as while driving a car.
  • PCP is used in spite of physical and psychological problems exacerbated or caused by the drug.
  • The user needs more PCP to achieve the desired results, or the same dose produces a diminished effect.
  • The user experiences withdrawal symptoms when he or she quits using, or uses to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

A diagnosis of a PCP addiction may be made after an individual displays at least 2 of the above symptoms within a 1-year period. 3

Overdose Symptoms

girl in psychosis caused by PCP use

A user can overdose on PCP if he or she takes a high dose of the drug. An overdose can result in psychosis, coma, or death if unrecognized and untreated. 7 Other possible consequences involve self-injury and violent behavior, such as homicide and assaults.

Common signs of a PCP overdose include: 7

  • Psychosis, or a loss of contact with reality.
  • Derealization.
  • Coma.
  • Trance-like state (lack of reacting, moving, or talking).
  • Convulsions.
  • Uncontrolled eye movements.

Someone who has overdosed on PCP is a danger to both himself or herself and others in close proximity. 7 If you suspect someone has overdosed on PCP, do not approach the user if he or she is agitated or violent. 7 Keep a safe distance and call 911 immediately. When you call 911, have the following information ready, if possible: 7

  • Amount of PCP used.
  • Time it was used.
  • Person’s age, weight, and current condition.

PCP Statistics

  • Emergency department visits involving PCP increased over 400% between 2005 and 2011. 8
  • 45% of emergency department visits in 2011 involved 25- to 34-year-olds. 8
  • In 2011, nearly half of PCP-related emergency department visits involved other illegal substances. 8
  • About 0.2% of people ages 12 to 17 have reported using PCP at least once. 9
  • Almost 1% of people ages 18 to 25 have reported using PCP at some point in their lives. 9
  • Nearly 3% of people ages 26 or older have reported using PCP during their lifetime. 9

Find Treatment for PCP Addiction

If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to PCP, call our helpline at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to speak to a treatment support specialist about recovery options.


[1]. National Drug Intelligence Center. (2003). PCP Fast Facts.

[2]. University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research. Phencyclidine (PCP).

[3]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.) Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[4]. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Phencyclidine (PCP).

[5]. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Phencyclidine.

[6]. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2015). What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body?

[7]. Heller, J.L. (2015).Phencyclidine overdose. National Library of Medicine.

[8]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Emergency Department Visits Involving Phencyclidine (PCP).

[9]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Hallucinogens.

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