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PCP stands for phencyclidine and is an illegal substance used by many for its hallucinogenic effects. This drug has a long list of side effects and causes a drastically altered perception.

You may be wondering how long PCP stays in the system once it’s used. Keep reading to learn more about this common drug and how long PCP stays in your system, along with other essential facts about this substance.

What Is PCP and How Does It Affect the User?

Phencyclidine1 was developed as an anesthetic to assist with medical treatments and was created in 1956 by Parke, Davis and Company. It was intended specifically for use as surgical anesthesia. Due to the difficult recovery and schizophrenia-like side effects, including hallucinations, they discontinued making it.

Once the side effects of this drug came to light, it was taken off the market, which was sometime in the 1960s. There are numerous side effects that make it addictive to the user. For example, it commonly gives the user a dissociative feeling that makes it seem like they aren’t in their body or feel like their existence isn’t real.

This substance comes in various forms, such as liquid and powder. However, this particular drug is commonly smoked with herbs or tobacco to create the desired effect. This drug is illegal and dangerous because it causes long-lasting side effects and may create lasting negative side effects on the user.

Some common ways to ingest PCP include snorting the powder form, taking tablets, or swallowing capsules. In liquid form, many people dip cigarettes or marijuana joints into the solution and let it dry, then smoke it. Other ways to get PCP into the system include using an eyedropper to administer the drug to the eye or sprinkling the powder on other substances.

A Schedule II Drug

PCP is classified as a Schedule II drug. There are five schedules of drugs based on their uses and potential dependency. The most addictive and dangerous being Schedule I. A Schedule I drug has the highest risk for dependence and has a high potential for severe physiological issues. Schedule V drugs have the least potential for creating dependency and having physiological or psychological side effects.

This Schedule II drug2 is as dangerous as some of the more prevalent drugs of today, such as methamphetamine, but produces different effects. PCP is highly addictive for the user because of the sensations it creates. This powerful drug can have one or more of the following common side effects:

  • Hallucinogenic effects
  • Euphoria
  • Catatonia
  • Coma
  • Extreme violence

Other effects reported with PCP use include altered perceptions of time, feeling powerful, increased social interaction, adrenaline highs, and lack of pain. Because of the strong dissociative and euphoric feelings, users can find themselves in dangerous situations where they sustain injuries or pose a threat to others. Some other common Schedule II drugs include the following:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Adderall
  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl

Any of the Schedule II substances are dangerous and put the users’ lives at risk. In the case of PCP, prolonged use causes an increased risk for brain damage and heart attack.

What Are the Effects of PCP?

Currently, PCP is created in illegal labs and sold on the street like many other common street drugs. This drug is fast-acting, and effects begin anywhere from one to five minutes after smoking PCP. The drug continues to peak in the system at anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes after smoking it, and the high from the substance continues for up to six hours. Lingering effects are felt for anywhere from one to two days after use.

What Are the Reasons for PCP Popularity?

This drug is popular today because of the cultural trends of the earlier decades — specifically, the 1960s and the 1970s. It became a popular party drug due to the range of effects it produced and its novel feelings that weren’t like anything else at the time. Today, the continued popularity of the drug keeps it in demand in the drug culture. People all over experiment with PCP and, unfortunately, become addicted in a short time.

What Are the Issues Related to PCP Use?

There are many problems associated with PCP use, and they include both physical and psychological effects. These effects occur on a long-term and a short-term basis. Some people may have life-threatening issues that cause death or carry the risk of death.

These can include heart attack, stroke, seizures, and more. The more a user turns to PCP for a high, the higher the chance of long-term damage. While high on PCP, some people commit violent crimes, harm themselves, or find themselves in very dangerous situations.

Another risk with PCP is getting tainted batches from street dealers. Because this drug is created in illegal labs, there’s no way to regulate the process of creating PCP, and there are often wide inconsistencies with each batch.

Some may create the desired effect, but others may be dangerous. Some can create a medical emergency for the user, and those can have long-term consequences. Many people also combine PCP with other substances, making it even more dangerous and more likely that an overdose or reaction to mixing drugs will happen.

PCP is also commonly used with other products such as cigarettes and herbs because it can be dissolved easily in water. Once it’s diluted, it is soaked up by other products for smoking. If left in its powder form, it can also be applied to other drugs such as mushrooms or cocaine, and the user wouldn’t be able to tell.

When PCP is taken in smaller amounts under 20 mg, there are noticeable effects, but they pose less immediate risk to the user’s health. They may stare off into the distance and have incoherent speech. There may also be other less noticeable signs, such as anxiety and an altered sense of perception. Although no dose of PCP is deemed safe, the 20 mg threshold is accepted as a low to medium dose. If the user exceeds 20 mg of PCP, there are life-threatening effects such as stroke, fever, coma, and even death.

Detection Times and Methods for PCP

PCP can be detected in the user’s system using a variety of tests. One of the most common tests used today is the urine test. The urine test works like a typical lab urine test where the user’s urine is collected in a cup and sent to the lab. These tests are reasonably accurate and detect PCP in the body anywhere from 4 to 6 hours after use. The urine test can also detect PCP traces anywhere from 7 to 14 days after use.

A different type of test from the urine test is the blood test. The blood test is more accurate and is administered while the user is still experiencing the effects of PCP. When a user is admitted to a hospital, this is usually the type of test used to detect various drugs in the system. A hair test can also detect PCP use. These tests are most accurate when performed anywhere from 5 to 10 days after PCP is used. They can also accurately detect PCP use for up to 90 days.

Although used less commonly, there is also a saliva test that can accurately detect PCP use within 5 to 10 minutes of ingestion and continues to accurately detect PCP use for up to three days after the initial dose.

Unlike many other illegal drugs, PCP is stored in the body’s fat tissue and slowly releases over time. Because of this mechanism, the hallucinogenic effects are stretched over a long time frame. In terms of PCP’s half-life, or the time it takes for the drug to halfway break down in the body, it’s generally three days. When a person is a heavy user of PCP, that time frame increases, and the drug is detected in the brain for up to a week.

One thing to keep in mind when testing for PCP is that certain over-the-counter medicines and drugs create a false positive. Some medications that cause this to occur include:

  • Tramadol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Imipramine
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Ketamine
  • Antidepressants

If the person tested uses any of these medications, they must alert the person giving the test to ensure they realize the risk for a false positive.

Why Test for PCP?

Employers, police, and hospitals frequently test for PCP for various reasons. One reason may be reliability for employment. Yet another reason may be to determine why a crime was committed or someone was harmed.

Less frequently, medical technicians test for PCP for drug treatment admissions to create a drug treatment plan that meets their needs based on their results and any information collected during the admissions process.

Another reason testing is important is to determine the amount ingested. The amount used is crucial in determining the level of danger present for the user. The more the user consumes, the more noticeable or intense the side effects. As mentioned, one danger of PCP use is that it creates paranoid feelings and produces aggressive or unusual behavior that can lead to unfortunate circumstances.

What Are the Signs of PCP Addiction?

Just like any potentially addictive drug, the user may develop a dependency on PCP. Some signs point to possible addiction. When you notice any of these signs, seek treatment immediately or help the individual with the addiction recognize the harmful effects and encourage them to seek treatment:

  • Issues with consistent behavior
  • A constant desire to use the drug
  • Previous history of use
  • Denial of use with signs consistent with using the drug
  • Craving of the substance

Drug addiction can look different from person to person. It’s vital to monitor behaviors and note the previous history to assess the situation accurately. It’s also important to know that many people will deny using when they have an active addiction.

In many cases, the PCP user doesn’t want tests to detect their drug use. Some try to detox their bodies to purge the PCP from their system. However, these diets or actions don’t work. Since the drug is stored in the fat tissues, the only way to rid the body of PCP is to stop doing the drug. Detox and purge diets won’t work and may prove dangerous for the user. The best solution is to get help for an addiction. Over time, the body rids itself of the drug and begins to recover.

This situation is difficult for you and the user, but offering gentle support may help them talk about their addiction and allow them to admit they need help to overcome the addiction and get back on track with their lives. Seeking treatment from organizations like Windward Way Recovery offers hope for overcoming PCP addiction by providing the patient with the best care and tailored treatment plans to ensure they have the best possible outcome.

Suggested reading: Drug and Alcohol Addiction

How to Get Treatment for PCP Addiction

Seeking treatment for addiction is never easy for the user. If you’re not the user, patience and understanding are required to connect with the user to suggest they seek treatment. Not all situations are the same, however.

The user may refuse treatment no matter the approach and may only accept treatment when a medical issue occurs or find themselves legally bound to seek treatment. The best practice is to try to get them to seek treatment admission on their own.

Many treatment centers like Windward Way Recovery provide a streamlined admissions process to make the process less stressful and faster. The goal is to get the necessary information and insurance details right away to help the patient get to the treatment center more quickly and begin their journey toward recovery.

The key to helping someone receive treatment at the correct facility using the right treatment plan is to gather the necessary information. The PCP user must be honest with their drug use details and provide accurate information related to their medical history and drug use history. Obtaining this information ensures that any potential medical problems or interactions are recognized.

Once the person is admitted to treatment, they begin the process of eliminating the PCP from their system under the strict supervision of qualified professionals trained to handle specific issues related to PCP withdrawal and cravings. They can assist with these urges and any related behavioral changes or physical problems during the process. The goal is to make the patient comfortable and help them overcome the need to use the drug. Then, they work on coping skills and learn ways to avoid using the drug in their daily lives.

Seeking Treatment Through Windward Way Recovery

At Windward Way Recovery, we are committed to helping patients seek treatment for various addictions, including PCP addiction. Our caring staff works hard to ensure each person’s fast and efficient admission to begin their treatment immediately.

The process of admission is simple and begins with one phone call. Upon contacting our team, a skilled professional takes the patient’s information and quickly collects the most important details. There is no long interview with probing questions.

Many people seeking treatment are nervous about disclosing information. Still, they can rest easy knowing the initial process is less intrusive and aims to get essential details and start the process in a caring manner. Once the information is received, the patient is on their way to their designated facility to begin the process of recovery in a professional, comfortable setting. Call Windward Way Recovery today to begin healing and get your life back on track.

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