PCP Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
Phencyclidine or PCP is a mind-altering drug that was originally developed as a surgical anesthetic. Medical use of PCP was discontinued in 1965 due to the severe agitation, delusions, and irrational behaviors patients experienced while they were recovering from its effects.
Today, PCP is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. When it is abused, PCP can cause hallucinations, “out of body experiences,” and distortions of sight, colors, and sounds. It is highly addictive due to its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects.
Illegal PCP is manufactured in clandestine laboratories and is produced in many forms including tablets, capsules, and powders of various colors. People who abuse PCP typically smoke it, snort it, or consume it orally. It may also be injected, although that is uncommon. When smoked, the powder is often applied to the leaves of tobacco, marijuana, parsley, or mint first.
Drug users may also consume PCP unknowingly, as it is often used as an additive in other addictive drugs like LSD, meth, or marijuana.
Any use of PCP is dangerous and can result in severe physical and psychological side effects that may have lasting consequences. Tolerance, dependence, cravings, and addiction to PCP are also common.
The following terms are street names or slang for PCP:
- Angel dust
- Embalming fluid
- Killer weed
- Rocket fuel
- Killer joints
- Whacko tobacco
- Love boat
- PeaCe pill
Due to its severe physical and psychological side effects, many people consider PCP to be one of the most dangerous drugs of abuse. Additionally, PCP is often illegally sold under the guise of other substances like MDMA, THC, mescaline, and LSD which further increases the user’s risk for harmful side effects and overdose.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2017, an estimated 1.4 million people ages 12 or older were current users of hallucinogens like PCP. Many of these PCP users sprinkle the powder onto the leaves of mint, parsley, marijuana, or tobacco and smoke it. When it is abused this way, its effects are felt in as little as two to five minutes and last anywhere from four to six hours. When it is consumed orally in pill form, the effects are felt in 30 to 60 minutes and can last six to 24 hours.
PCP abuse is associated with violent and bizarre behavior but that is not completely based in fact. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, research does not support the idea that PCP is the cause of bizarre behavior and superhuman strength, as described in media reports. Many people who have outbursts of violent behavior also have a history of violence, psychosis, or antisocial behavior that may or may not be directly related to PCP abuse or other instances of substance abuse.
However, PCP abuse can cause paranoia, hostile behavior, delusions, and psychosis, which may result in violent or erratic behavior.
Depending on the dosage, the short-term psychological side effects of PCP abuse include:
- “Out of body” experiences
- Distorted sense of time and space
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Difficulty concentrating
- bizarre/hostile behavior
- Delusions of grandeur
- Panic/terror/fear of death
Short-term physical side effects of PCP abuse may also include:
- Blurry vision
- Constricted pupils
- Impaired motor skills
- Blank staring
- Difficult speaking/inability to speak/incoherent speech
- Feelings of pain associated with sound
- Rigid muscles
- Decreased sensitivity to pain and touch
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low and high blood pressure
- Shallow and irregular breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased body temperature
- Alternating sweating and chills
Long-term side effects of PCP abuse may include:
- Memory problems
- Speech problems
- Severe anxiety
- Severe depression
- Suicidal thoughts/behaviors
- Social isolation
- Hostile behavior
- Delusional thinking
- Auditory hallucinations
Taking a very high dose of PCP may also result in an overdose. Reported PCP-related deaths also include accidental drowning, accidental falls, car accidents, self-mutilation, suicide, and homicide.
There are several behavioral signs that may indicate PCP abuse or PCP addiction. They include:
- Trying to stop using PCP but being unable to
- Spending a lot of time with a new group of drug-using friends
- Isolating from friends and family
- A rapid decline in self-care and hygiene
- Frequent mood swings
- Having problems at school or work
- Having relationship problems
- Losing interest in favorite hobbies or activities
- Sleeping at strange times
If a person is addicted to PCP and tries to stop using or cut back, he or she may experience uncomfortable symptoms known as withdrawal. PCP withdrawal symptoms usually include:
- Increased body temperature
- Muscle breakdown
- Muscle twitching
- Memory loss
- Weight loss
- Speech impairment
- Cognitive problems
PCP withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and dangerous if attempted without medical supervision, but a medical detox program can provide professional treatment for uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and psychological issues associated with PCP detox.
Without medical detox, a person withdrawing from PCP is likely to relapse. On the contrary, professional support provided by medical and clinical staff members can ensure the PCP detox and withdrawal is safe, comfortable, and successful.
PCP withdrawal is a highly individualized process and research studies have not determined a specific timeline of symptoms. However, there are certain factors that may influence the duration and intensity of PCP withdrawal, including:
- How long a person has been using PCP
- A person’s overall physical and psychological health
- How much PCP the person used each time
- Whether PCP was used alone or with other drugs or alcohol (also known as polydrug abuse)
PCP addiction is a disease of the brain and real problem for many people. Without treatment, PCP addiction can greatly reduce the overall quality of life, but fortunately, anyone can overcome PCP addiction with the right help.
Following detox, an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab program can help PCP abusers overcome their addiction by addressing the underlying psychological and behavioral issues and providing new, more positive ways of coping with life circumstances.
Research shows long-term addiction treatment that lasts at least 90 days provides the best opportunities for lasting sobriety. More time in treatment also provides more opportunities to implement positive life changes, create a relapse prevention plan, and break the cycle of chronic relapse.
During rehab, clients work with addiction treatment professionals to learn about the disease of addiction, work through a 12-step program or similar recovery curriculum, recognize and deal with high-risk situations in recovery, and gain essential life skills for lasting recovery. Treatment also often includes family support and family therapy to address the needs of the entire family unit, not just the addicted individual.
These objectives are achieved with evidence-based treatment methods which include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Family counseling
- Chemical dependency education
- Ongoing peer support
If you or a loved one is searching for a rehab program for PCP addiction, residential rehab and outpatient rehab programs are two common options that are designed to treat people with varying levels of addiction.
Both types of rehab programs address substance abuse and addiction but have unique qualities that may make one more beneficial than the other. Your doctor or an admissions representative at a treatment center can help you determine which type of treatment is best for you, depending on your individual circumstances, financial ability, and the severity of your addiction.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of residential rehab and outpatient rehab:
In residential rehab, clients:
In outpatient rehab, clients:
Many people with severe addictions find that residential rehab provides the amount of structure and support they need to successfully achieve and maintain their sobriety. Intensive outpatients also provide robust treatment programs and a high level of structure and support, but they provide more flexibility and give clients the ability to live at home or at a sober living home while they attend treatment in the morning, afternoon, evening, or on weekends.
The cost of any addiction treatment program will vary depending on several factors like location, amenities, populations served, treatment services offered and more. However, there are several different options for payment, including:
- Financed payment plan
- Health insurance benefits
- Private healthcare loans
- Credit cards
- HSA funds
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits
PCP addiction will require time and intensive treatment to overcome. Even after completing detox and rehab, people recovering from addiction often need continued support to sustain their sobriety. Sober living programs and aftercare programs are two types of continuing care options for people in recovery.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living program provides safe, supportive, and clean housing for people who are recovering from addiction but are not yet ready to live on their own. By providing peer support, structure, and recovery services, a sober living home acts as a buffer between residential rehab and independent life in recovery.
Although they serve the same purpose, all sober living homes are different and may offer varying amenities, room options, and recovery support services. Some of the most common services offered include:
- Regular drug and alcohol testing
- One-on-one peer recovery support
- Tiered recovery programming (for clients in all stages of recovery)
- Personal monitoring
- Employment assistance
- Volunteer placement
- Family support
Depending on the services offered, the location, the type of housing, and other factors, the cost of a sober living home will vary. However, payment is most often collected monthly, similar to rent.
Aftercare programs are ideal for people who have already completed detox and rehab and who do not need a higher level of care. This type of program provides ongoing support for sobriety maintenance, relapse management, and any other issues that arise during early recovery or another transitional phase of life.
Aftercare programs consist of a series of outpatient meetings that are facilitated in a safe, clinical environment by addiction treatment professionals. New clients are always welcomed to the group, which is designed to be a safe, accepting, and understanding place where people in recovery can focus on personal growth, sobriety maintenance, and coping strategies.
If you or a loved one is struggling with PCP addiction, help is available. Call Nova Recovery Center today to learn more about our continuum of care and comprehensive treatment that can help you achieve lasting sobriety.
- Gender-specific treatment
- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
- 90-day residential treatment
- Family program
- Full continuum of care
- Insurance and private pay
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