Causes & Effects of PCP Addiction

Understanding PCP Addiction

Learn About PCP Addiction & Abuse

PCP, which is short for phencyclidine, is a highly dangerous substance that possesses powerful effects that include hallucinations and dissociation. This drug, which is also referred to as rocket fuel, angel dust, and wet,  most often appears in powder or tablet form, and is most commonly consumed by swallowing, snorting, smoking, or injecting it. PCP can impair one’s ability to perceive sound and sight correctly, and can also bring on a sense of detachment from one’s surroundings. Those who ingest PCP might experience paranoia, anxiety, delusions, and may also act in a manner that is reckless, aggressive, or otherwise dangerous.

PCP abuse can cause extreme psychological and physical harm, with short and long-term effects including memory damage, impaired cognition, addiction, and psychosis. Once an individual has become dependent on PCP, it can be challenging, and nearly impossible, to defeat the compulsion to keep abusing this drug without effective professional treatment.


PCP Abuse Statistics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that more than 120,000 adolescents and adults within the United States have abused PCP at least once within the past year. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the prevalence of lifetime use of PCP sits at about 2.5% of the U.S. population. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the annual number of PCP-related emergency room visits in the United States grew from just under 15,000 to more than 75,000, which is an increase of more than 400%, in a recent 5-year period.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for PCP Abuse

The APA reports that experts have amassed only limited information regarding genetic and environmental risk factors that might increase an individual’s risk for abusing or becoming addicted to PCP. The APA does state that those who are treated for PCP are often younger than those who are treated for other types of substance abuse, are less educated, and are more likely to live in the West and Northeast areas of the United States.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of PCP Abuse

An individual who has been abusing PCP might show the following signs and symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Spending significant time acquiring, using, or recovering from PCP
  • Behaving in illegal, reckless, and/or otherwise dangerous ways
  • Aggression or violence
  • Use of PCP in situations where it is obviously dangerous to do so
  • Continuing to use PCP even after experiencing negative repercussions related to prior use

Physical symptoms:

  • Breathing problems
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle twitches and spasms
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Vision problems

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Diminished decision-making skills
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Dissociation
  • Amnesia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Dramatic mood shifts
  • Social withdrawal
  • Agitation
  • Irritability

Lasting Effects

Effects of PCP Abuse

The untreated abuse of or addiction to PCP can lead to many dangerous outcomes, including the following:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Death
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Homelessness
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Academic failure and expulsion
  • Job loss
  • Brain damage
  • Psychosis
  • Family discord
  • Impaired motor skills

Co-Occurring Disorders

PCP Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who abuse or who become addicted to PCP might have an increased risk for the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Additional substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of PCP Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of PCP withdrawal: If an individual has been partaking in continued PCP abuse, stopping the use of this drug can trigger the onset of the symptoms below:

  • Memory problems
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Seizures
  • Diminished capacity for speech
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Twitching muscles
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion

Effects of PCP overdose: An individual who shows the following symptoms after consuming PCP might have experienced an overdose, and is in need of immediate medical attention:

  • Catatonia
  • Coma
  • Rapid uncontrolled lateral eye movements
  • Unconsciousness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Convulsions
  • Agitation
  • Psychosis

Fortunately, there is treatment available for those who seek it, and it is possible to end one’s addiction to PCP once and for all.

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I struggled with my PCP for close to 2 years before seeking treatment. But, from my first day at Serenity Knolls to my last, I felt that everyone cared. The staff (many of whom are in recovery themselves) really understood what I was going through and that really helped me.

– Sean C.