Phencyclidine, more commonly known as PCP, is a hallucinogenic first used in the 1950s as an anesthetic. It wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that recreational PCP use grew in popularity. Soon after PCP was introduced to the streets, it quickly gained a negative reputation based on some of the bad reactions it caused. It never became overly popular in comparison to other drugs of choice.

However, in recent years, PCP has made a strong comeback and is currently popular in its liquid form. Being a cheap high, many users will dip their cigarettes in PCP, resulting in mind-altering effects. PCP can also be swallowed, smoked, or snorted.

When sold as a powder, PCP is typically white — this means that the drug is in its purest form. However, coloration can range from dark brown to white. If PCP is brown, this is usually due to the manufacturing process. This is usually due to unreacted chemicals and contaminants, which can lead to serious side effects. Like any illicit drug, you can never be certain what has been mixed with your drug of choice. One of the most dangerous cutting agents is fentanyl, which is resulting in an immense amount of accidental overdoses.

Effects and Symptoms of PCP Abuse

PCP has a direct effect on the brain, impacting NMDA, glutamate, dopamine, opioid, and nicotinic receptors. Due to the way in which it affects users, many consider PCP to be one of the most dangerous drugs of abuse. This is based on its ability to cause users to feel completely distant, estranged, and detached from their immediate environment — which can be deadly.

In one Washington Post article, a PCP user reflects on her friend’s tragic death after being accidentally lit on fire. The drug’s effects can be unpredictable and prior to her friend’s death, the user reported that someone else she knew threw themselves off a roof while high on PCP. “It’s a high that numbs your head,” she said.

While high on PCP, users will experience:

  • Numbness of the extremities
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • A blank stare or rapid eye movements
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Paranoia

When taken in low doses, users may experience a range of physiological effects, including:

  • A slight increase in breathing rate
  • A rise in blood pressure
  • Flushing and profuse sweating

When taken in higher doses, these physiological effects may include:

  • A drop in blood pressure and pulse rate
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Drooling
  • Loss of balance
  • Violence and hostility

Some users experience seizures, coma, and death — which is typically associated with accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication. Since PCP induces sedative effects, when combined with other central nervous system depressants, such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, users face an increased risk of accidental overdose or coma.

When taking doses of 5 to 10 mg orally, PCP has been shown to induce acute schizophrenia. This is why PCP is used in animal experimental studies to investigate the neurochemical basis of schizophrenia. Even low doses of PCP have been shown to produce patterns of neurochemical and metabolic changes in rodent brains that resemble the brains of schizophrenic patients.

Many users report increased feelings of strength. However, there is no evidence to support this. The drug itself does not increase muscle power. Instead, it causes aggressive behavior and users likely perceive that they have superhuman strength.

Signs That You’re Addicted to PCP

PCP is an addictive substance that often leads to psychological dependence, compulsive seeking behaviors, and cravings. Regular users will also experience withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue use. These symptoms include but are not limited to depression, sleepiness, sweating, headaches, and changes in appetite.

Characterized as repeated drug use despite serious consequences, PCP addicts will often distance themselves from friends and family, experience problems at work or school, showcase changes in mood and personality, experience flashbacks, and continue to use in order to address cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.

According to the latest DSM-5, you will be diagnosed with a PCP addiction if you meet two or more of the criteria within a 12-month period:

  • You are taking more PCP than intended
  • You have built up a tolerance to PCP
  • You are unable to cut back or regain control
  • You spend the majority of your time and money obtaining PCP
  • You experience cravings
  • You continue to use despite the negative consequences PCP causes in relation to your social, recreational, or occupational activities
  • You take PCP in situations that are dangerous

Although PCP causes the classic symptoms of addiction, as described above, researchers have found that PCP may also alter the brain. A 2007 study, published in the California Journal of Emergency Medicine, found that PCP increases dopamine and norepinephrine production. Dopamine plays a critical role in the brain’s pleasure and reward brain system. When used repeatedly, PCP can alter the way in which users experience pleasure and motivation. This can result in intense cravings.

Long-term users may exhibit symptoms related to their PCP addiction, these include:

  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Difficulties with learning and speech
  • Weight loss that may continue up to a year after they stop using PCP

PCP Addiction Stats

  • According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, it is estimated that more than six million people aged 12 and older have tried PCP at least once in their lifetime.
  • Unfortunately, PCP use is particularly common among teenagers and young adults. A survey found that 225,000 individuals aged 12 to 17 and 777,000 individuals aged 18 to 25 have used PCP at least once. The University of Michigan found that more than 3 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. have tried PCP.
  • According to the DEA, in 2010, there were more than 53,500 emergency room visits associated with PCP abuse.

Getting Treatment for Your PCP Addiction

While PCP addiction isn’t as common as other addictions, such as opioid addiction or alcoholism, when you’re aiming to overcome an addiction to PCP, the approach taken is the same as any other drug of choice. Each individual is assessed based on their unique circumstances and needs.

The first step in treating your PCP addiction will be to stabilize your body by eliminating PCP from your system. In order to do so, you will need to undergo the detoxification process. By seeking the support of a professional medical detox facility, you will be able to ease symptoms of withdrawal and increase your chances of success.

This is very important because although symptoms of withdrawal only last for approximately a week (depending on the severity of your addiction), they are so uncomfortable that there’s a high risk of relapse. Medical detox can help combat those symptoms so that you can progress to the next phase of your treatment plan.

After you have successfully completed the detox stage, ongoing treatment will be required. Once again, the treatment you receive will be highly customized. The goal is to address any underlying mental health conditions that contribute to your addiction, allowing you to develop healthier coping mechanisms.

What to Expect on Your Road to Recovery

Your road to recovery will begin the moment you decide to seek treatment. At Transformations, once you arrive, you can take comfort in knowing that we will help you every step of the way. First, you will undergo an assessment. That way, we can better understand your unique needs. While your treatment plan can adapt to your needs as you progress, your initial plan will focus on your addiction and any underlying mental (or physical) health considerations.

We understand that each individual is unique and that they come from varying walks of life, which is why we offer so many treatment options, all of which are evidence-based and run by a team of licensed professionals. Just some of the options we offer include, but are not limited to our:

  • Partial hospitalization program — This program is then further broken down based on our client’s specific needs and desires. For example, we offer programs for those over 30 years of age, as well as those who are 30 years and younger; faith-based programs; veteran programs; and more.
  • Intensive outpatient program — You will receive 9 hours of clinical care per week (3 group therapy sessions and 1 individual counseling session). We also offer our outpatient program that consists of 2 hours of clinical care per week, plus life skills sessions.
  • Mental health support — One out of every five Americans will struggle with mental health in their lifetime. You are not alone. Whether you are struggling with depression, PTSD, or a personality disorder, we have the tools, support, and resources to help you. Now is the time to invest in your mental health!

We also offer:

  • Medical detox — Our medical detox facility will provide you with the safety and comfort you require throughout the withdrawal process. This can help you overcome one of the most changing stages in terms of relapse. Then, you can focus on healing your body and mind.
  • Medication-assisted treatment — We offer naltrexone and Suboxone treatment to support long-term success. These medications have been shown to significantly increase success rates.
  • Experiential services — These include adventure therapy and recreation activities.
  • Specialty services — These include holistic treatments, EMDR, and psychiatric services.


The message here is that your treatment should be flexible, adapting to your specific needs. What works for one client does not work for the next. That is why we work closely with our clients to build the type of customized plan that will increase their chances of not only getting clean but staying clean. Your road to recovery is not a race, it’s a marathon, and in order to remain on track, you require support.

No matter what your circumstances are, we have a solution. You no longer need to remain a slave to your addiction. You deserve a healthier, more fulfilling life — let us help you achieve the quality of life you desire. At Transformations, we believe in restoring hope, creating purpose, and changing lives.

Please do not let your PCP addiction run your life any longer. We’re just a phone call away.

Contact us to discuss your options — today could be the beginning of your new life.

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