Classification: Hallucinogen; Anesthetic Slang Names: Angel Dust, Killer Weed, supergrass, crystal, cyclone, elephant tranquilizer, hog, embalming fluid, KJ, peace pill, PeaCe Pill Method of Use: swallowed, smoked, sniffed, injected Dependence Potential psychologically addictive and may be physically addictive What is PCP? PCP (Phencyclidine) is a synthetic drug that was first developed as an anesthetic agent for surgery in the 1950s. It was soon taken off the market for human use because of its unwanted side effects. Today, its only legal use is in veterinary medicine. PCP is notorious for its variety of effects - acting at times as a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogen - and for its unpredictability. In spite of its bad reputation, PCP remains popular on the street. It is cheap, often masqueraded as other street drugs such as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and is easy to make. Many underground laboratories are producing the drug, selling it, and making an attractive profit. As a result, users can never be sure of what they are actually buying since it is manufactured illegally. PCP comes in several different forms - in its original form as a white or yellowish-white powder, as a tablet, or as a capsule. Different methods of use induce different effects. The most popular method of use is smoking marijuana, parsley, or tobacco sprinkled with PCP powder. Users find they can control the effects of PCP better this way. PCP can be taken orally by capsule or tablet and usually means getting larger doses of the drug.Snorting or injecting low doses of PCP produces a "rush" and enhances the anesthetic effects of the drug. Many users take PCP without knowing what they're taking, while others choose to use PCP regularly. PCP is a powerful drug, even in small doses, and as all psychoactive (mind-altering) drugs, effects may vary depending on the amount taken, how it is taken, and who's taking it.

The Effects of PCP Use

When taken orally, PCP produces a high that can last between 5 and 8 hours.

When smoked or injected, effects can last any where from 3 to 5 hours. The high itself is hard to describe users generally report a variety of physical and psychological effects. The drug seems to disassociate the user from reality - it feels as if the user is in a fantasy world - sometimes pleasant, sometimes not.

Physical effects of PCP in small doses causes sedation, numbness of the extremities, loss of muscle coordination, and dizziness. Users tend to have a blank stare or experience involuntary rapid eye movements accompanied by blurred or double vision. Users may also experience flushing, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate.

In larger doses, PCP's painkilling and anesthetic qualities are prevalent. There is a significant drop in blood pressure, breathing and heart rate. Users appear drunk because they are so uncoordinated. They may experience shivering, increased salivation, watery eyes, loss of balance, dizziness, muscular rigidity, and exhibit repetitive movements such as rocking back and forth. Their speech is often confused and their vision may be distorted. For the next few hours, thinking, remembering, and making decisions can be very difficult.

At high doses, PCP users become extremely agitated which is commonly followed by seizures or coma. The coma can last for a few days to several weeks. Thesesymptoms mimic the agitation, delusions and mental confusion exhibited byindividuals suffering from schizophrenia. Massive PCP overdoses can kill.

PCP users may experience "trips" that last from one to six hours. At the beginning of a PCP trip, users report feeling as if they are outside of their body. They have a distorted image of themselves and their surroundings. As the trip progresses, they begin to hallucinate, become confused and lose track of time and space. During this time, some users may become aggressive and violentwhile others may withdraw and have difficulty communicating. In the final stages, users may become depressed, irritable and alienated from their surroundings.

Other Dangers of PCP Use

More PCP users have died from accidents caused by the anesthetic qualities and the strange behavior associated with this drug than from the actual chemical effects of the drug.

Because PCP is an anesthetic, it deadens feelings in the extremities, making almost impossible for users to feel any pain. Cuts, burns, bruises and broken bones go undetected until the drug has worn off. Therefore, users could die in a fire because PCP has made them insensitive to the burning. Or, they may bleed todeath - never realizing they were even cut. There have been reports of PCP users falling off of roofs and out of windows because of the intoxicating effects - or users drowning because they were so disoriented that they did not know which way was up. Because PCP can produce violent behavior, users have been known to assault others or injure themselves-sometimes resulting in murder or suicide


Long-term Effects of PCP Use

Prolonged users of PCP regularly experience disturbances in judgement, memory, concentration and perception even after they have stopped using the drug. They report speech problems as well as hearing voices and sounds that don't exist. Chronic users may have flashbacks (experiencing a drug's effects without taking the drug) and are subject to recurring bouts of anxiety and depression. Some past users have also exhibited outbreaks of violent behavior and PCP-induced psychoses (a disturbance of the user's thought processes).

Signs and Symptoms of PCP Use

  • The following are signs that may indicate the use of PCP:
  • unpredictable behavior; mood swings
  • intoxication
  • disorientation; agitation
  • violent, aggressive behavior
  • fear, terror, shivering
  • blank stare
  • rigid muscles
  • pupils may be dilated
  • mask-like facial appearance
  • floating pupils - appear to follow a moving object
  • comatose if large amounts consumed; eyes may be opened or closed

Source: Valencia Community College Project Infusion Module, Orlando, FL. Reprinted with permission.

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