What Is PCP?
Phencyclidine was developed as a general anesthetic in the 1950s because it provided excellent anesthesia and analgesia (control of pain) without depressing cardiorespiratory function. In the early 1960s, marketed under the name Sernyl, its use became commonplace in surgical procedures.
By the late 1960s, it was determined to be unsafe for human use because of extreme post-op agitation and the psychotic and dysphoric effects of the drug; PCP was then limited to veterinary use. Many of PCP’s street names came from its history of use in animals: hog, elephant, horse tranquilizer, etc. During the 1970s and 1980s, the illegal manufacture and use of PCP on the street became widespread.
PCP affects multiple neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Its properties inhibit the reuptake of brain chemicals like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, inducing a feeling of euphoria or calm. It also enables the brain to disconnect from its normal perception of reality, creating the dissociative effects.
A typical dose is reported to be about 5 to 10 milligrams and the effects can be felt in minutes if smoking, or 30 to 60 minutes if ingesting orally. Those immediate effects last 4 to 6 hours, but a return to a normal state can take a day or more.
What Are the Statistics on PCP Use?
The statistics on hallucinogen use, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, are detailed in the chart and call-outs below. Hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, peyote, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, “Ecstasy” (MDMA or “Molly”), ketamine, DMT/AMT/”Foxy” and Salvia divinorum.
- Among people age 12 or older, the percentage who were past year hallucinogen users increased from 1.8 percent (or 4.7 million people) in 2015 to 2.2 percent (or 6.0 million people) in 2019. These estimates in 2019 were higher than those in 2015 to 2017, but they were similar to those in 2018.
- Among adolescents age 12 to 17 in 2019, 1.8 percent (or 440,000 people) used hallucinogens in the past year. These estimates in 2019 were similar to those in 2015 to 2018.
- Among young adults age 18 to 25 in 2019, 7.2 percent (or 2.4 million people) used hallucinogens in the past year. These estimates in 2019 were similar to those in 2015 to 2018.
- Among adults age 26 or older, past year hallucinogen use increased from 0.8 percent (or 1.7 million people) in 2015 to 1.5 percent (or 3.1 million people) in 2019. Corresponding to the pattern among people age 12 or older, these estimates in 2019 for adults age 26 or older were higher than those in 2015 to 2017, but they were similar to those in 2018.
Earlier studies have shown:
- 6.1 million individuals in the United States, ages 12+, reported lifetime use of PCP (DHHS, 2011).
- There has been a significant increase from an estimated 37,266 to 53,542 PCP-related hospital visits between 2008 and 2010 (DEA, 2013).
- The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that PCP was most prevalent among African American males ages 21-24.
- PCP-related emergency room visits increased 400% between 2005 and 2011, with increases seen in both genders.
- In 2011, males accounted for 69% of PCP-related ER visits, with the largest age group being 24-35 (SAMHSA, 2013).
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of people 12 and over who reported using PCP for the first time jumped from 14,000 in 2018 to 30,000 in 2019.
Due to the 2011 defunding of programs like SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the statistics for PCP use have only recently begun being tracked again in 2019. Older DAWN data showed that PCP was consistently used by high school-age youth and young adults.
How Do Users Consume PCP?
PCP is a white crystalline powder with a bitter taste that is often dissolved in water or alcohol for consumption, but it can also be vaped, snorted, swallowed, or smoked. It is often laced into marijuana or tobacco cigarettes.
Common street names for PCP:
- Peace pill
- Angel dust
- The sheets
- Rocket fuel
- Bella donna
- Love boat
- Magic dust
- Embalming fluid
When combined with marijuana or tobacco:
- Super grass
- Killer weed
- Killer joints
- Crystal joints
- Whacko tobacco
When combined with other drugs:
- Black acid (with LSD)
- Elephant flipping (with MDMA)
- Pikachu (with MDMA)
- Domex (with MDMA)
- Space (with cocaine)
- Whack (with cocaine)
- Alien sex fiend (with heroin)
What Does PCP Do to the Human Body and Mind?
The clinical presentation of PCP use may vacillate between extreme agitation and sedation, as it affects the central nervous system. There are short- and long-term effects that can be observed in cases of PCP use.
As a dissociative drug, PCP interferes with a chemical in the brain called glutamate. This chemical is responsible for regulating the perception or feeling of pain, emotion, learning, memory, and response to the environment.
The physical and hallucinogenic effects of dissociative drugs like PCP can appear within a few minutes, and can last several hours or even days. The effects depend on how much is used.
In the mind and body of the user, PCP may produce a wide range of effects, including:
- Dissociation (feeling detached from reality)
- Visual distortions
- Auditory distortions
- A feeling of super-strength
- Impaired motor function
- Memory loss
- Sense of floating
- Loss of coordination
- Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature
- Body tremors
- Respiratory failure
Physically, an observer may notice any number of these effects in a PCP user:
- Impaired memory
- Inability to think clearly
- Inability to speak
- Inability to move
- Rapid up and down eye movements
- Excessive salivation/drooling
- Loss of balance
- Exaggerated gait
- Mood swings
- Blank staring
- Rigid muscles
- Suicidal thoughts/ideation
- Delusions of grandeur
- Stripping of clothes/being naked in public
- A rapid decline in hygiene/self-care
- Excessive sweating
Although scientists and researchers agree that more research is needed on the long-term effects of dissociative drugs like PCP, we do know that repeated PCP use can result in addiction. Other long-term effects of chronic PCP use are:
- Difficulty with speech
- Memory loss
- Weight loss
- Delayed reaction time
- Difficulty controlling temper
- Paranoia and other schizophrenic symptoms
- Suicidal ideation
What Does Addiction to PCP Look Like?
Some potential signs of PCP-related substance use disorder include:
- Difficulty managing your duties at work, school, or around the house
- Intense cravings invading your thoughts and affecting your ability to concentrate on other things
- Feelings of discomfort if you cannot access PCP
- Relationship degradation with family and loved ones caused by using PCP
- Inability to enjoy activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling the need to ingest more PCP to achieve the same effect
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (headaches, sweating, chills, fever, diarrhea) when you stop using PCP
What Does a PCP Overdose Look Like?
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdose deaths in the United States hit a record high of 93,331 in 2020. According to a National Center for Health Statistics report, there was a 29% spike in drug-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts over 250 people died daily due to overdose. Although synthetic opioids (such as illicit fentanyl) continue to be the primary cause of these deaths, there has also been an alarming increase in the number of deaths involving illicit stimulants and hallucinogens.
Overdose deaths are more likely with some dissociative drugs. Users of hallucinogens and dissociative drugs risk serious harm and death because of the profound alteration of perception and mood these drugs can cause. PCP users may become violent or suicidal and become a danger to themselves and others. For instance, the feelings of invincibility or superpowers may cause a PCP user put themselves in a high risk situation, like jumping from a significant height. The suicidal ideation may cause PCP users to act. Actions that a person would never perform when sober may occur under the influence of PCP.
It is a common misperception that PCP users, “become,” violent or aggressive; that may not always be the case. It is now commonly thought that only those predisposed to violence or aggression will become so under the influence of PCP.
Another threat to the life of a PCP user is the significant possibility that street PCP is laced or poisoned with contaminants or other illicit substances mixed in or cut with the drug. High doses of PCP by itself can cause seizures, coma, and death. Additionally, taking PCP with depressants such as alcohol or benzodiazepines like Xanax can also lead to coma.
However, most PCP-related deaths more often result from accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication.
What Does Withdrawal From PCP Look Like?
PCP users who stop using can experience:
- Drug cravings
How Do You Treat PCP Addiction?
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. Emergency treatment can only address certain physical symptoms and keep the person stabilized. If there are persistent psychotic symptoms, psychotropic or antipsychotic medications may be administered.
Following this type of acute medical treatment, it is recommended that the person participate in a regimented substance use disorder treatment program such as those offered by Windward Way Recovery.
Windward Way Recovery employs a combination of behavioral and other therapies that are effective for hallucinogenic or dissociative drug use disorders. Creating a path to connection (or reconnection) to a social network, family, loved ones, and friends is an important tenet of any recovery or treatment program. The way forward is out there; you simply need to reach out and ask for help.
How Can Windward Way Recovery Help People Who Suffer From PCP Use Disorder?
Windward Way Recovery offers partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment services. However, the first step in any recovery process is reaching out for treatment. Whether starting with an inpatient detoxification or outpatient detoxification, your treatment begins by asking for help.
It only takes one phone call to (855) 491-7694, a message through our website, or a Facebook message to begin admission. This process can definitely be overwhelming. At Cardinal, we understand how difficult this step can be, so we work hard to make the process as comforting and straightforward as possible. It is helpful to gather all your current and previous health information before calling us. The following is our process and the steps necessary to join us at Windward Way Recovery.
1. Pre-Admissions Process: An intake specialist will ask about a person’s drug and alcohol history and current situation. Other medical conditions will be disclosed and discussed and the list of doctors a person is seeing will be gathered. This process may also include discussion of any prior treatment history, if any prior treatment has been sought.
2. Post-Screening Discussion – Once the initial process is complete, we discuss Cardinal’s programming opportunities to see if there is a suitable program for your needs.
3. Admission – Should Cardinal be a good fit, insurance information will be discussed. If you do not have insurance, there may be private self-pay options or even possible scholarships. There may be a waiting list, or we may be able to take you in right away.
4. Arrival: Immediately after arriving at the Windward Way Recovery, each new individual undergoes a comprehensive health assessment. Addiction professionals will discuss a person’s substance use history, relevant mental and physical health conditions, and environmental factors. At that point, you will be provided with our policies and rules.
5. Treatment Length Determination: The length of treatment varies greatly depending upon the substance used, the length of time using, and the presence of co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
How Can Windward Way Recovery Help Me?
From its leafy suburban setting to its wide variety of therapeutic approaches, Windward Way Recovery is an industry leader in substance use treatment care. We adhere to the highest standards and utilize cutting-edge research findings in all of our methodologies and levels of care including:
- Inpatient care
- Outpatient care
- Partial hospitalization
- Individual, group, and family therapy
Types of Therapy Offered at Windward Way Recovery
Our intensive group therapy sessions offer the opportunity for (but are not limited to):
- Early recovery psychoeducational groups (education about substance use)
- Relapse prevention groups (learn the tools you need to break free from addiction)
- Cognitive behavioral groups (rearrange patterns of thinking that lead to addiction)
- Peer support groups (a forum where members can supportively challenge each other to debunk excuses)
- Interpersonal process groups (members help each other process the relational and other life issues that were previously escaped through addictive substances)
We offer family therapy work to include:
- Family engagement (begins the conversation and involves family and the individual in the recovery process)
- Addiction psychoeducation (providing education to family members to better understand the nature of addiction, how addiction manifested in their loved one’s life, etc.)
- Collaborative aftercare planning (includes the family in discussion surrounding what the next step for the individual is, from exploring options in lower levels of care to providing resources for the individual to seek new employment or housing)
What Steps Can You Take Right Now?
The desire to stop using drugs or alcohol is essential to begin a lifelong recovery path. Reach out to our staff at Windward Way Recovery. If you are located anywhere in the Midwest, Cardinal is centrally located in Franklin, California, just 30 minutes south of Californiapolis, with a wide spectrum of programs and resources to help people with substance use issues.
Please visit our website to learn more about our programs and the treatment options available. Take a look at our tranquil suburban treatment center where you can find refuge from the stresses and triggers of the everyday world in order to work on rebuilding strength, engaging in therapy to explore issues contributing to addiction, and taking back control of your life.
- In most cases, if a person has a substance use disorder, recovery begins at the detoxification stage. Medical monitoring of this stage reduces the risks to mental and physical well-being.
- Following medical detoxification, Cardinal’s treatment options include partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), outpatient programs (OP), and case management services to connect individuals to resources like sober living.
- The intensity of these treatment program options ranges significantly, from outpatient counseling to community-based programming.
Windward Way Recovery is part of the Zinnia Health Network of addiction and mental health services. There are seven facilities in the network, focused on treatment paths that include detoxification and stabilization, residential/outpatient/partial hospitalization options, holistic and family approaches, and unique LGBTQ+ program tracks. Please call, message, or email us today to begin the process of freeing yourself from the prison of addiction.