What Are the Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Using PCP?

PCP is perhaps the most widely used term for phencyclidine, an illegal anesthetic known for its ability to produce extremely altered behavior and powerful hallucinations. The drug also has another famous street name: angel dust. Phencyclidine can produce serious harm in both short-term users and long-term users. Let’s take a look at the PCP effects found in each of these categories.

PCP Background

Phencyclidine was actually created more than 60 years ago for use as an intravenous (IV) anesthetic. However, the drug triggered major unwanted side effects and the federal government outlawed its use. The intended therapeutic purposes of PCP included:

  • Pain relief
  • Loss of body mobility, and
  • Sleep-inducing sedation

Short-Term Effects

The amount of phencyclidine you take has a significant impact on the PCP effects you experience. If you take a low or moderate dose in the range of 1 mg to 5 mg, common effects include:

  • Euphoric pleasure
  • Physical numbness
  • Drowsiness
  • A disoriented or confused mental state
  • Dissociation (a sense of detachment from yourself or your surrounding environment)
  • A form of involuntary eye movement called nystagmus
  • A blank facial expression
  • A declining ability to control your body, and
  • An inability to speak without slurring your words

When you take at least 10 mg of PCP, you enter the territory of effects such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusional thinking (including paranoia)
  • Unusual, extreme and/or aggressive behavior, and
  • Anxiety that transitions into outright panic

In addition, a small or large dose of the drug can trigger physical effects such as:

  • Rigid muscles
  • Unusually high or low blood pressure
  • Heartbeat irregularities
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in your normal breathing, and
  • Fever

If you take a large dose of phencyclidine, you can also trigger an overdose. Potential consequences of a PCP overdose include:

  • Seizures
  • Non-responsive unconsciousness (i.e., coma), and
  • Death

Users of the drug also have a significant risk for fatal accidents.

Long-Term Effects

If you continue to use PCP over an extended period of time, you run the risk of developing a number of serious problems. A partial list of the drug’s potential long-term effects includes:

  • Unpredictable “flashbacks” that spontaneously trigger the drug’s effects
  • Ongoing and possibly severe speaking difficulties
  • Memory disruption
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Severe and ongoing depression
  • Severe and ongoing anxiety, and
  • Increased risks for suicidal thinking, planning and action

Even if you have no previous history of severe mental health problems, long-term use of PCP can also lead to an ongoing form of psychosis (i.e., hallucinations and delusional thinking) known as toxic psychosis or substance-induced psychosis.   Sources: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration: Phencyclidine  University of Maryland – Center for Substance Abuse Research: Phencyclidine (PCP)

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