What is PCP?

By The Fix staff 07/10/14

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a white crystalline powder that readily dissolves in water or alcohol and has a bitter chemical taste. Considered, a recreational dissociative drug, it can produce feelings of strength, power and invulnerability at one stage and cause users to feel detached, distant, and estranged from their surroundings at another stageNumbness of the extremities, slurred speech, and loss of coordination are common. PCP was first sold legally in the 1950s but was taken off the market in 1965 due to major hallucinogenic side effects in users. 

PCP is addictive and its use often leads to psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior. Depending upon how much and by what route PCP is taken, its effects can last approximately 4–6 hours. 

PCP is available in a variety of tablets, capsules, and colored powders, and in liquid form. It can be ingested, smoked, inhaled, or injected. It is also known as Angel Dust, Sherm, Ashy Larry, Wet, PeaCe Pill, Hog, Lovely, Wack, Ozone, Dust, Embalming Fluid, and Wetstick. Supergrass and Killer Joints are names that refer to PCP combined with marijuana. IPCP contains a number of contaminants causing the color to range from a light to darker brown with a powdery to a gummy mass consistency. 

How is PCP Used?

The powder substance is most commonly sprayed onto leafy material like marijuana, oregano, mint, tobacco, or parsley leaves and smoked. In its pure form, PCP is yellow oil that users dip into a cigarette and smoke. This method is called, “getting wet.” Users can also snort PCP powder, swallow tablets and capsules. 

How Does PCP Affect the Brain?

PCP causes hallucinations, which are profound distortions in a person’s perception of reality. Under the influence of hallucinogens, people see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. Some hallucinogens also produce rapid, intense emotional swings. PCP causes these effects by initially disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Distributed throughout the brain and spinal cord, the serotonin system is involved in the control of behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems, including mood, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, muscle control, and sensory perception. 

Long Term Effects of Abuse

Long-term use of PCP can lead to memory loss, difficulty with speech or thought, depression, aggressive behavior, flashbacks, psychosis, and auditory hallucinations. High doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and even death (often as a consequence of accidental injury or suicide while under the drug's effects). At high doses, PCP's effects may resemble the symptoms associated with schizophrenia, including delusions and paranoia.


Treatment of PCP overdose is largely symptomatic and centers on increasing elimination. Oral administration of charcoal and increasing the urine’s acidity by drinking cranberry juice can speed up elimination of PCP in abuser’s system. If vital signs are stable and the main symptoms are confusion or agitation, then it is best to reduce all sensory stimulation (such as touching and sound) as this stimulation may lead to an increase of agitation. Call Emergency Services if an overdose of PCP is suspected.  

Mixing with Other Drugs

PCP is often administered or mixed with other drugs such as crack cocaine (“beam me up”), cocaine hydrochloride (“lovelies”), and marijuana (“crystal supergrass”, “donk”, “killer joints”, “sherms”, “wacky weed”, “wicky stick”). Combining alcohol with PCP can increase the likelihood of reduced inhibitory markers, allowing the users to increase risky behaviors and suicide ideation.

Drug Tests

Elimination of PCP in 72 hours urine ranges from 4 to 19% for unchanged drug and 25 to 30% for conjugated metabolites. Approximately 97% of a dose is excreted in 10 days, and PCP use can be detected in urine by immunoassay up to a week following a high dose. Urine PCP concentrations ranged from 0.4-340 mg/L in 19 intoxicated patients.

Legal Status

Under U.S. law, PCP is listed as a Schedule II drug by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

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