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How to Help a PCP Addict

What Is PCP?

PCP, or phencyclidine—commonly called “angel dust”—was developed in the 1950s as an intravenously administered anesthetic. PCP is no longer approved for medical use, and it is now only found on the illicit market. Most commonly, the street drug form of PCP is a white, crystal-like powder that dissolves easily in liquid.

PCP can be ingested in multiple ways. Users may:

Common effects of PCP use include agitation, dissociation (feeling of separation) from self, and feelings of invulnerability. Long-term use and using large doses of the drug in a short amount of time can lead to increased paranoia, mood problems, kidney and liver damage, and death (usually as a result of impulsive decisions made while under the influence of the drug, accidental injury, or suicide). PCP use is extremely harmful, but treatment for PCP addiction is available.

Is PCP Addictive?

PCP is a drug with a number of unusual effects, including hallucinations and dissociation. Consequences of such effects can include:

  • Fearful out-of-body experiences.
  • Feelings of invincibility.
  • Perceived power over others.
  • Paranoia.
  • Violence.

Repeated use of PCP, even recreationally, can have a severe psychological impact. Aside from the typical dissociative effects, PCP can cause even more alarming effects. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, users of PCP can become violent and suicidal, and they may experience symptoms of psychosis similar to those of people diagnosed with schizophrenia—such as delusions and paranoid thinking.

While withdrawal symptoms from PCP have not been established in humans, the “high” that the drug provides can help to cultivate a compulsion to use over and over—even when PCP use has negatively impacted the user’s life. The official substance abuse diagnosis in cases such as these would be termed phencyclidine use disorder.

What Are the Signs of PCP Addiction?

People under the active influence of PCP use may exhibit some of the mental and behavioral signs and symptoms listed above, and they may act out in an extremely aggressive or violent manner. They may also appear to be very disoriented, delirious, or “out of it.” Other signs to look out for include:

  • Irritability.
  • Suspicious attitude.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Reacting to delusions.
  • Grandiosity.
  • Euphoria.
  • Hypersensitivity to sound.
  • Memory loss.
  • Suicidal ideation.

Am I Addicted to PCP?

If you’re worried about your use of PCP, it’s likely time to seek treatment. For those actively using PCP, signs of dependence may include:

  • An increased need for more PCP to achieve a desired effect.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to decrease or eliminate use.
  • Inability to maintain daily life expectations such as a job or family obligations.
  • Using PCP in situations that are hazardous, like while driving.
  • Development of tolerance (needing more and more to induce the same effects).

How to Talk to a Loved One About Treatment

In 2014, nearly 1.2 million people aged 12 and older were current users of hallucinogens like PCP. If you know or suspect that someone you care about is addicted to PCP and would benefit from professional help, you can encourage them to enter treatment. Resources like Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) are available to help you prepare for a conversation with a PCP addict.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and can help you 24/7 when you call our free helpline. If your loved one is ready to begin the process of recovery, please give us a call today at . All calls are confidential. We can answer any questions you may have about treatment plans, options, cost, and available facilities.

Help for PCP addicts

Use of PCP can lead to an array of unpleasant and harmful effects for the user, which can include violent behavior, hallucinations, stupor, dangerous drops in blood pressure, shock, and coma, among others. Someone who is using PCP compulsively may need treatment to avoid the harmful consequences associated with continued use.

No single treatment approach works for everyone, so each person seeking rehabilitation should consider the benefits of different treatment types—like inpatient and outpatient programs. Outpatient rehab offers more flexibility for those who cannot take time away from family or work obligations.

Whatever type of treatment you choose should include comprehensive care options—like therapy, medication, and mental health assessment—as this often results in better long-term outcomes.

PCP Addiction Treatment Types

Prior to embarking upon the treatment period for PCP abuse, the user will need to complete a period of detoxification from the drug. As a potent dissociative, if used for a long duration, PCP can have pervasive mental and physical health effects. A dependent individual will benefit from the safety and supervision afforded in a structured detox situation—allowing their beleaguered systems to clear the presence and influence of PCP gradually and mitigating the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal, if present.

Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs exist for the treatment of PCP addiction. Choosing a method of treatment will be up to the addict and his or her loved ones.

  • Inpatient treatment is often recommended for users who use uncontrollably and face many triggers to use at home. The around-the-clock care removes the user from normal temptations to use in order to allow them to focus completely on getting sober and learning the skills to live in recovery.
  • Outpatient programs offer many of the features of inpatient care, but allow the user to continue living at home and fulfilling everyday obligations, such as work. The drawbacks are that the patient will have to attempt to navigate recovery while still facing the temptations of their normal environment.

During the course of both inpatient and outpatient treatment, the patient will participate in talk therapy—both individual and group. Family and friends may also be invited to help addicts feel supported in their recovery.

Aftercare Programs

Following PCP addiction treatment, various aftercare measures—including long-term participation at 12-step meetings—can help those in recovery remain grounded in their commitment to sobriety. Former substance abusers may find success in creating new habits in order to replace old behaviors and making a commitment to finding health and wellness through proper nutrition, exercise, and mending relationships damaged during the days of drug use.

Sober living houses, which offer those in recovery a place to focus on continued sobriety while adjusting back to life, are also an option.

To learn about the various types of treatment options that can save your life or that of someone you love, please call American Addiction Centers (AAC) free at and speak with a treatment advisor today.

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