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Phencyclidine Hydrochloride (PCP)

What is phencyclidine hydrochloride (PCP)?

PCP is an illegal street drug. It has other names, including angel dust. PCP can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken by mouth. A fatal dose is about 1 mg/kg in adults and less in children.

PCP is a hallucinogen. Hallucinogens are drugs that can cause you to see, hear, and feel things that are not real. PCP can make you depressed, numb, and it can change your sense of reality and time. PCP abuse often leads to physical injury to the user or those who come in contact with him or her.

PCP powerfully affects some of the chemicals of the body and brain that change mood and emotions. Extreme reactions can make users become very strange. They can be violent against themselves or others. Occasionally, heart or lung failure can occur.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of PCP abuse include:

  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there)
  • a "ready for a fight" attitude
  • agitation and irritability
  • disorientation
  • paranoia, or feelings of suspicion and mistrust
  • delusions
  • an extreme belief in one's importance
  • euphoria, or exaggerated feeling of happiness
  • thoughts of suicide
  • an abnormal awareness of sounds
  • nausea or vomiting
  • loss of memory
  • inability to speak

How is PCP abuse diagnosed?

In an emergency, an overdose of PCP can be confused with schizophrenia. Users may withdraw from other people and the outside world and become totally self-absorbed.

The healthcare provider will order blood and urine tests. These tests can quickly tell if PCP has been used.

How is PCP abuse treated?

The first and most important step is to prevent lung failure and convulsions. You will be hospitalized so that the airway to your lungs can be kept clear. PCP can be removed from your stomach by a procedure that washes out the stomach and brings up its contents.

If you have seizures, antiseizure medicine will be given. You will be watched closely. Restraints may be used to help prevent injuries. Sedating drugs may be given if you are dangerously aggressive or agitated, or if you have hallucinations and delusions. You may be given other medicine to reduce high blood pressure and control a fast heart rate.

You will be given medicines and liquids to help you to urinate and get rid of PCP in your system. If your overdose is severe, another drug may be given to speed up urination.

Substance abuse is a life-long disease that only can be controlled, not cured. For any treatment to be successful, you must want to give up PCP.

How long will the effects last?

The effects will last as long as there is PCP in your system and as long as you continue to use the drug. People who use PCP for long periods can have memory loss, trouble thinking and talking, and weight loss. These symptoms can last up to a year after stopping PCP use. Mood disorders such as depression and panic also have been reported.

How can I take care of myself?

Take the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Stop taking this drug.

Changing your lifestyle can help you to stop using PCP. Make the following a regular part of your life:

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-05-16
Last reviewed: 2011-05-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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