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Effects of PCP Use: Short-Term, Long-Term, Side Effects, and Treatment

What Is PCP?

PCP is an abbreviation for the powerful dissociative sedative drug phencyclidine. PCP is sold on the street in many forms, including as:

  • White powder.
  • Crystal.
  • Capsules.
  • Tablets.
  • Liquid.

PCP tablets can be found in multiple colors. Like many illicit substances, they are distributed in doses that are difficult to determine and PCP is frequently mixed with other intoxicating substances. The various forms can be swallowed, snorted, or smoked, either alone or in combination with other drugs like tobacco, marijuana, and MDMA.

PCP Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of PCP vary depending on the particular dose taken, as well as the route of administration used. As an example, when the drug is smoked, the effects will begin in as few as 2 minutes.

Swallowing the drug slows the absorption and results in the onset of effects being delayed until about 30 – 60 minutes.

In either case, the effects may last for as few as 4 hours and as many as 48 hours depending on the amount used.

Like its chemical cousin ketamine, PCP is a dissociative sedative-anesthetic drug. It has hallucinogenic properties, however—meaning it is known to produce visual and auditory distortions, as well as perceptual changes. PCP’s dissociative effects can result in an individual feeling detached from themselves or the world around them. While under the influence of PCP, someone might feel temporarily divorced from reality, or as if their body is not their own.

Long-Term Effects of PCP Use

With excessive use over an extended period of time, the negative effects of PCP become more troublesome, and they may persist for periods even when the drug isn’t actively being taken.

The effects of PCP can begin negatively impacting the physical and mental health of the user. These effects include:

  • Impaired memory.
  • Thinking problems and impaired decision-making abilities.
  • Speech problems.
  • Severe depression with suicidal thoughts.
  • Higher anxiety, paranoia, and isolation.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • “Flashback” phenomena.
  • Continuous hallucinations and delusional thinking even when not using the substance.

These long-term effects can be quite dangerous; case studies indicate that some of these reported symptoms may persist for as long as a year following last use of PCP.

Is PCP Harmful?

Perhaps deservedly so, PCP has developed a very negative reputation based on reports of what can happen to those under the influence of the drug. People are more likely to act aggressively or violently towards others or themselves. The incidence of such behaviors may be more common in people with a history of mental health issues.

People using PCP often overestimate their abilities or think themselves impervious to harm, which can lead to accidental injuries and death. For example, someone will think they can cross a street quickly enough to avoid traffic, only to be hit by a car.

While using PCP, people may misinterpret and distort calm situations as confrontational and respond with violence, and since they are perceiving pain inaccurately, the violence could end with serious physical injuries.

Another level of danger from PCP use is that the substance is easily mixed with other drugs like marijuana and tobacco. In powder form, PCP can be used to “lace” marijuana or tobacco prior to being smoked. Similarly, a cigarette can be dipped into liquid PCP to produce a more covert way of using the drug.

Some people—intent on purchasing ecstasy or MDMA—are deceived and given pills that combine PCP and other substances, including ketamine, caffeine, and methamphetamine.

PCP Dependence

Like many drugs with sedating or tranquilizing properties, PCP can be an addictive substance. People who use PCP consistently will begin craving the drug and will likely engage in risky, dangerous, or illegal behaviors to acquire and use more of the substance.

Physiologic dependency becomes an issue with extended PCP use. When dependency develops, the user’s body has grown accustomed to the effects of the drug and will function or will be perceived by the dependent individual to function sub-optimally without it.

PCP Addiction Treatment Types

There are a number of options that can benefit someone struggling with an addiction to PCP. Seeking professional advice is always the appropriate course of action if you, or someone you know, is negatively impacted by the abuse of PCP.

Depending on your situation, a range of addiction treatments can be helpful, including:

  • Inpatient detoxification or rehabilitation services. After the immediate presence and influence of the drug relinquishes its hold, inpatient or residential programs continue a seamless transition into a mode of intensive therapy. The inpatient environment allows individuals to focus their sole attention on their recoveries—free of the distractions and temptations they might contend with in their native environments. A combination of individual and group therapies will aid in this process. During your stay, you may see a doctor who can prescribe helpful medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of success.
  • Outpatient drug and alcohol or mental health treatment. If the inpatient path is not best for you, you may benefit from an outpatient setting. As opposed to inpatient treatment, where you will stay at the facility, outpatient services permit you to sleep at home. Programs will vary, with options ranging from intensive, all-day programs to weekly hour-long appointments.

Whatever your situation is, be sure to follow the treatment recommendations of professionals to help ensure that you receive the level of care that fits with your needs.

Find PCP Abuse Treatment Programs

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available and recovery is possible. Treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a healthier and happier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and a variety of treatment types is available. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted facilities across the country. To learn more about rehab programs and treatment options, please contact a caring AAC admissions navigator free at .

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