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What are the signs and symptoms of PCP abuse?

Phencyclidine, aka PCP, aka Angel Dust is a psychedelic drug in the Dissociative anesthetics class. It was developed in the 1950’s as an anesthetic, but when the side effects of hallucinations and delirium became apparent, its use was discontinued. It became a drug of abuse in the late 1960’s but never gained popularity among drug users as its effects are so severe and unpredictable.


What is PCP drug?

Pharmaceutical grade PCP is a white powder, or a colorless liquid. Illicit PCP may appear in various colors and textures due to imprecise manufacturing techniques. It can be put in capsules, pressed into pills, or the liquid form is applied to cannabis or tobacco. 

How PCP is used?

PCP can be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed. For smoking, PCP is typically applied to cannabis or tobacco. The method of administration will dictate how quickly the drug takes effect.

The dose will also dictate the effects. 

What are the effects of PCP on the user?

The effects of PCP are: 

  • Numbness in the hands and feet 
  • Loss of balance, staggering, and taking exaggerated steps (moonwalking) 
  • Slurred and repetitive speech,
  • Analgesia, or inability to perceive pain
  • Altered perception of one’s body , e.g., “My head has been cut off, my arms are a mile long”
  • Loss of ego boundaries, or ability to tell where your body ends and another person or object begins
  • Paranoia, and hallucinations
  • Euphoria, and excitement
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Feelings of strength, power, and invincibility

How long PCP takes to work, and how long it lasts?

The effects of PCP are felt anywhere from two minutes (smoking) to 20 minutes (swallowing), depending on the method of administration. PCP’s effects will last for about four to six hours, with aftereffects for up to 24 hours. 

Short-term and long-term risks of using PCP

There is user of PCP may put themselves and the people around them in danger due to their behavior while under the influence of the drug. As with any drug with alters or removes one’s awareness of reality, an accident, such as falling down a flight of stairs or walking out in front of a car can occur. The media reports of PCP producing violent reactions and giving people superhuman strength are exaggerated. PCP can provoke violent reactions in some individuals, but such responses typically occur in people who already tend to be hostile, aggressive, and violent individuals. Because PCP has analgesic, or pain relieving effects, a person under the influence may not feel the pain of an injury until hours late when the drug has worn off. Police officers, Corrections officers and bouncers may have difficulty containing individuals on PCP because they will not feel the pain from what are called compliance holds. A compliance hold puts pressure on a joint, causing discomfort to induce the person to stop resisting and obey directives. Someone on PCP may not feel their wrist or arm being twisted into an uncomfortable position, even to the point of joint dislocation, muscle tear or fracture. This is combined with paranoia, making gaining control of a violent individual on PCP very difficult. 


PCP does not appear pleasurable to use, but rather it will produce a frightening experience where the user will feel out of control. It noteworthy that many people who drink heavily, shoot heroin, smoke crack, and take LSD will avoid using PCP.