Phencyclidine is a dissociative hallucinogen commonly referred to as PCP. It comes in powder, crystal, liquid and tablet forms. PCP is commonly smoked in laced marijuana. It may also be an ingredient in tablets marketed as ecstasy.
A tablet form of PCP called the PeaCe Pill grew in popularity during the 1960s. Smoking and snorting the drug became more common around 1978 after use of the pill form peaked. People started smoking or snorting PCP to seek a quicker high, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.
PCP and other dissociative drugs make people feel detached from their body. People may use PCP to feel a euphoric rush, to feel disconnected from reality or to enhance their awareness. Unlike many other hallucinogens, PCP can cause life-threatening problems.
PCP is addictive. The drug causes classic symptoms of addiction, such as tolerance, dependence and compulsive drug use. In addition to its hallucinogenic effects on the brain, PCP changes levels of dopamine in the brain, according to a 2007 study published in the California Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Dopamine plays a key role in the brain’s pleasure and reward system. Repeated use of PCP changes how a person feels pleasure and motivation. Over time, the brain starts to crave the drug.
When people who are dependent on PCP stop using it, they experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms motivate continued drug use. Without treatment for addiction, people addicted to the drug often struggle to quit using it. Chronic PCP use can lead to long-term health problems.
People who use PCP want to feel a euphoric rush, sensory changes and dissociative effects. But there are also several PCP effects you should know about.
Effects of PCP include:
In high doses, PCP can cause life-threatening side effects. Overdosing on PCP can cause severe depression, memory loss, problems speaking, kidney failure, high body temperature and muscle contractions.
People who repeatedly use PCP despite experiencing overdose symptoms could be addicted to the drug. They may no longer be using the drug to get high. Using PCP to cope with cravings and to avoid withdrawal are symptoms of addiction.
Other signs of PCP addiction include:
An inability to stop using PCP despite an upcoming drug test is another sign of PCP addiction. PCP can stay in your system for up to 30 days when used habitually. People addicted to PCP may try to purchase drug-free urine or find other ways to beat a drug test instead of quitting the drug.
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PCP addiction isn’t as common as addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Because the prevalence of PCP addiction is lower, less research has explored effective ways to treat the disease.
People addicted to PCP may require medically supervised detox to overcome painful withdrawal symptoms and serious mental health symptoms.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, symptoms of PCP withdrawal include:
Nurses and therapists may be able to ease some symptoms of withdrawal with therapy or medication. However, no medication exists to treat PCP addiction.
Most types of addiction are treated with behavioral therapy and support groups. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective form of treatment that helps people in recovery correct problematic thinking that often leads to relapse.
Individuals recovering from PCP addiction may also benefit from support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Peer support helps people stay accountable and access resources necessary for improving their health.
PCP is an addictive drug that can cause dangerous short- and long-term side effects. Addiction to PCP often requires professional treatment. With rehab and peer support, people do recover from the disease.
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