PCP is a man-made drug that was originally used as an intravenous anesthetic in the 1950s. Its medical use was discontinued because many patients became agitated, delusional and irrational while recovering from the anesthesia.

The use of PCP was eventually limited to anesthetizing and tranquilizing large animals. Today, it is made and sold as an illegal drug.

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About PCP

PCP (also known as angel dust, peace pill, wack, horse and Crazy Eddie) is made in illegal labs and sold on the street. It distorts perception of sight and sound. In its pure form, the drug is a white crystalline powder that has a bitter taste. It can be mixed with dyes and can be sold in a variety of forms, such as:

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • coloured powders

Because PCP is relatively easy to make, it is often substituted for (or mixed with) other illegal drugs. These include:

PCP can be consumed by:

  • sniffing it up the nose (snorting)
  • taking it by mouth
  • mixing it with water and injecting it

The drug can also be smoked by adding it to a leafy material like parsley, oregano, tobacco or marijuana. The effects last about 4 to 6 hours depending on how much PCP is taken and how it is taken.

One factor that influences the effects of PCP is how it is taken. If swallowed, the results depend on the amount of food the person has in their stomach. If smoked or snorted, the drug rapidly enters the bloodstream and the brain.

Short-term effects of PCP

PCP use can lead to short-term mental and physical effects.

Mental effects

In terms of mental effects, PCP can produce bizarre and unpredictable behaviour. It can be impossible to predict the behaviour of someone who has taken the drug. In some people, it can produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation. In others, it might trigger:

  • anxiety
  • fear
  • panic
  • agitation
  • paranoia

Other mental effects can include:

  • inability to speak properly
  • a sense of being detached from their surroundings
  • distortion of time and space
  • hallucinations or delusions (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
  • distortion of body perceptions (feelings of weightlessness/floating)

People who take high doses of PCP may also feel:

  • depressed
  • disorientated
  • aggressive

They can be violent and become a danger to themselves and others. Those who are most at risk for violent outbursts while under the influence of PCP often have a history of:

  • psychosis
  • antisocial behaviour

PCP can cause these individuals to:

  • mutilate themselves
  • kill themselves (suicide)
  • kill others (homicide)
  • die from accidents, such as drowning or vehicle crashes

Physical effects

PCP produces the following short-term physical effects:

  • blurred vision
  • drooling
  • sweating
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • numbness in the arms and legs, along with impaired coordination
  • increased heart rate
  • abnormally low or high blood pressure
  • irregular breathing (increased breathing rate or slow and shallow breathing)

Toxic psychosis may appear with chronic use even when there is no prior history of psychiatric disturbances.

The symptoms of toxic psychosis include:

  • aggressive or hostile behaviour
  • paranoia
  • delusional thinking
  • auditory hallucinations


Overdosing is always a possibility. Taking too much PCP can be life-threatening. It can cause:

  • overheating
  • convulsions
  • coma, possibly resulting in death

Since PCP is a sedative, even small doses can be dangerous if combined with depressants like alcohol or opioids.

Long-term effects of PCP

Not much is known about the effects of long-term PCP use. But its ongoing use has been known to produce some mental and physical effects.

Mental effects

Long-term use may lead to a number of symptoms, such as:

  • memory loss
  • difficulties speaking and thinking
  • severe anxiety and depression
  • flashbacks (a spontaneous re-occurrence of visual distortions or emotional feelings from previous drug use)

These symptoms can last months to years after the last drug use. They may even continue indefinitely.

Physical effects

If PCP is injected and individuals share drug supplies (such as needles, pipes or spoons), they risk serious infection. Several diseases can be spread by contaminated equipment, such as:

Substance use disorders and withdrawal

PCP can be addictive. Repeated use of PCP can lead to tolerance.

If the drug is stopped abruptly, it can lead to symptoms of withdrawal. These include:

  • sweating
  • headaches
  • cravings for the drug
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