PCP Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is PCP?

PCP, also commonly known as Angel Dust, is a dissociative hallucinogen that was created in the 1950’s as an intravenous anesthetic. The drug produced a trance-like state and gave the patients an out of body experience. Medical professionals discontinued its use when patients in surgical recovery became restless, irrational, panicked, and experienced hallucinations which can happen with PCP abuse and addiction.

PCP is now an illicit drug that is no longer being used for medicinal purposes. The drug is a controlled substance manufactured in underground illegal laboratories. It is produced as a tablet, capsule, powder, and liquid. PCP is very soluble in water or alcohol. Its unique chemical taste is bitter and this leads it to be sprayed on leafy items such as parsley, mint, and marijuana and then smoked. PCP is also snorted, injected or consumed as a liquid. A PCP drug experience or “trip” will last between 4 – 6 hours. The longevity of the trip is based on the potency and amount of PCP taken. It is not uncommon for people to use PCP unknowingly because it is often added to marijuana, LSD or methamphetamine as a booster. Other names for PCP include Angel Dust, Fry, Rocket Fuel, Wack, Wet, Zoot, Embalming Fluid, Amp and Hog.

Peyote Addiction Statistics

Statistics for PCP use and abuse is limited. Since it is a hallucinogen and is considered to be physically non-addictive, it is statistically grouped in with other hallucinogens. In 2010 the Monitoring the Future Study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), showed that 1.0% of 12th graders had abused PCP at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [1]. Additional PCP statics include the following:

  • In 2009, 122,000 Americans age 12 and older had abused PCP at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [2].
  • In 2008, 1.8 percent of high school seniors reported lifetime use of PCP; past-year use was reported by 1.1 percent of seniors; and past-month use was reported by 0.6 percent. Data on PCP use by 8th- and 10th-graders are not available [3].
  • In 2007, 6.1 million persons aged 12 or older reported that they had used PCP in their lifetime (2.5 percent), although only 137,000 persons in the same age group reported use in the past year—this represents a decrease from 187,000 persons in 2006 [4].
  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)*, there were approximately 1.1 million persons aged 12 or older in 2007 who reported using hallucinogens for the first time within the past 12 months [4].
  • According to Monitoring the future survey of drug trends, 2.3% of 12th graders in the United Stated used PCP sometime during the year 2000 [1].

Causes of PCP Addiction and PCP Abuse

As with other hallucinogens, PCP has not been determined to be physically addictive, but it can become psychologically addictive. Tolerance to PCP is quickly built up, and it takes about 10 days for the body to completely rid itself of the drug. When PCP is smoked or injected, the effects can be felt quickly, within 1 – 5 minutes. When it is snorted or taken orally, the drug effects may be felt in approximately 30 minutes. A person using PCP can become addicted to the feelings of detachment from oneself or the environment. Since PCP is an analgesic, the person can come to crave the numbness of the mind and body that often is experienced. Continued abuse of PCP will lead to lasting brain damage. PCP addiction often co-occurs with marijuana and / or alcohol addiction. Together these addictions require high levels of medical attention to surmount.

Signs of PCP Abuse, Addiction and Dependence

A physical dependence to PCP is unlikely to happen. Therefore, the psychological dependence will be more prevalent. PCP is a “dissociative” drug meaning that sights and sounds are distorted, and the person will feel disconnected or detached from their body, environment, etc. The person can also have intense feelings of strength, power and invincibility. Someone using or dependent on PCP may display some of these physical and emotional attributes:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Feelings of being invulnerable
  • Speech difficulty
  • Weight loss

PCP Effects

PCP can have various side effects that relate to both the physical and mental aspects of the person using the drug. The severity and longevity of the side effects is contingent on the amount used, the purity of the PCP, how often it is used and how long it has been used. These are some of the mental side effects of using PCP:

  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Anxiety
  • Violence
  • Psychosis
  • Amnesia
  • Blank stare
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia type behavior

These are some of the physical side effects from taking PCP:

  • Sensory distortions
  • Illogical speech
  • Seizures
  • Blurred vision
  • Analgesia (inability to feel pain)
  • Respiratory failure
  • Coma
  • Stroke
  • Death
  • Memory loss
  • Speech impairment
  • Memory loss

Unfortunately, some of these PCP side effects can last as long as a year with some of these effects becoming irreparable. In addition to the physical and mental issues created by using PCP, the relational aspects of a person’s life will be touched as well. Friends and family will be adversely affected, and so will professional opportunities resulting in the loss of a job and income.

PCP Withdrawal

Psychological addiction is the primary concern as it relates to withdrawal. However, someone who has been using PCP for a long period of time can experience diarrhea and chills if usage is abruptly stopped. The psychological withdrawal symptoms can include depression, psychosis and anxiety. Currently, there are not any medical means to help with stopping a PCP addiction.

PCP Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment for PCP abuse is similar to treatment for other physically non-addictive hallucinogens. If a person has become addicted to PCP, their perception of reality may be distorted, and they may exhibit schizophrenic behaviors. The focus needs to concentrate on how to help the PCP user live without thinking they must have to PCP to function normally. It is important to find a PCP treatment program that will use multiple approaches to help overcome the addiction. The user not only needs help to stop using PCP, they need assistance in addressing any underlying emotional issues or traumas that may have led to using PCP.

There are drug treatment centers that can help with defeating a PCP addiction. They will take a multidisciplinary approach to creating an individualized detoxification program utilizing several different treatment modalities. Support programs, treatment therapies and behavioral therapies will be combined to provide a holistic approach to quitting PCP abuse. The first step in this arduous trek is acknowledging there is a problem and asking for help from friends and family.


[1]: Monitoring the Future Study – http://www.monitoringthefuture.org

[2]: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH.aspx

[3]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends

[4]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens-lsd-peyote-psilocybin-pcp

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on AddictionHope.com, Addiction Help