Phencyclidine, commonly referred to as PCP, causes hallucinatory and dissociative effects. The drug disrupts the way different parts of the brain communicate. It also acts on the part of the brain in charge of pleasure, causing an intense euphoric rush.
Many people use the drug to feel high and to hallucinate. Like other dissociative drugs, PCP can make people feel disconnected from the body. These effects are desirable for some people. But they’re also accompanied by health risks.
PCP also has pain-relieving properties. Individuals may get injured while using the drug and fail to realize it. The drug can also increase the risk of violent behavior. People under the influence of PCP may do things they wouldn’t do while sober, such as get into fights or hurt others.
The effects of PCP can be felt within five minutes of smoking the drug and within an hour of swallowing it. PCP stays in your system longer than many other drugs. The hallucinogenic effects may last between four and eight hours when the drug is smoked and six to 24 hours when it’s taken in pill form.
PCP affects the way brain cells react to glutamate. Glutamate is the brain’s most important chemical for normal brain function, according to the second edition of the textbook Neuroscience.
Glutamate is involved in nearly all of the brain’s vital processes, including learning, forming memories, feeling emotions and experiencing pain. PCP disrupts how the brain’s receptors react to the chemical, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.
That’s why PCP changes our ability to feel pain and create memories. It also causes a range of intense emotions, such as loneliness, anxiety and depression.
PCP can also cause euphoria because it affects another chemical in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that makes us feel happy. It’s also involved in the disease of addiction. Drugs that disrupt the way the brain releases and uses dopamine are more likely to cause addiction than drugs that don’t affect dopamine.
Most people experience mild effects of PCP when they consume a dose of five milligrams or less. The drug causes more intense effects after a dose of 10 milligrams or more. These effects may vary depending on a person’s tolerance and personal factors, such as weight and age.
Taking a large dose of the drug increases the chance of experiencing life-threatening overdose symptoms.
Combining PCP with other drugs may also increase the risk of overdose. Many people lace marijuana with PCP. Weed laced with PCP may increase the chances of hallucinations or overdose symptoms.
Mixing PCP and benzodiazepines can cause coma, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
PCP can also cause deadly overdoses and increase the risk of accidental death. The drug has been associated with drownings, car accidents, falls from high places, suicides and homicides.
Repeated use of PCP can lead to dependency and PCP addiction. Dependency is a physical reliance on a substance. After repeated exposure, the brain will depend on PCP to function normally. Without the drug, the brain will go into withdrawal.
The brain also develops a tolerance to PCP over time. Individuals who use the drug regularly require higher doses to feel its effects.
Some people become addicted to PCP. They’re unable to quit using the drug on their own. The risk of drug addiction is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Some people can develop tolerance and dependency to PCP without becoming addicted.
Individuals who are dependent on PCP should speak to a doctor about safe ways to stop taking the drug. During rehab for PCP addiction, health professionals help people overcome withdrawal in a safe environment.
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