PCP side-effects

Originally Published: February 8, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 22, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I just realized you have no entries on PCP, and am wondering if you could give me some information on it. I have experimented with it a few times, and since then have become very nervous on occasion and I find that I think more "out of the box." Is this common? Could you give me any other information?

—Georg

Dear Georg,

Thanks for the heads up! PCP (phencyclidine) is a hallucinogenic drug that can cause a dissociated or "out of body" feeling. It was originally developed for use as a surgical anesthetic but was discontinued due to numerous unpleasant side effects. The U.S. government classifies PCP as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is illegal and not approved for medical use. It goes by many names including angel dust, peace pill, rocket fuel and super weed to name a few. PCP is found in pill or powder form and is usually swallowed, snorted or smoked. 

Using PCP can cause some side effects that are distinct from other drugs, and may explain some of the symptoms you describe. Side effects are unpredictable and vary from person to person. The effects of PCP generally begin within minutes of smoking and last approximately 4-6 hours. PCP in pill form may cause longer-lasting effects. Potential side effects include:

Physical

  • Decreased sensitivity to pain
  • "Rubbery" feeling in the legs
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Abnormal eye movements

Mental

  • Feeling disconnected from one's body and/or reality
  • Apathy
  • Disorganization of thoughts
  • Feeling drunk
  • Distortion of time and space perception
  • Feeling invincible

PCP is considered a "hard" drug due to the potential for significant adverse reactions in some individuals, including:

  • Inability to communicate
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Blank stare
  • Long-lasting problems with speech or memory (in heavy users)
  • Convulsions & coma (in overdoses)
  • Violent behaviors and suicide

The nervousness and "out of box" thinking you report feeling could be associated with taking PCP. PCP works by altering a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pain perception and memory. Depending on the dose and the form of PCP these effects may last for many hours after taking the drug. In heavy users, these effects can last for up to a year. Although you've only experimented a few times, this may be what you are experiencing.

If you are concerned about your reaction to PCP, consider trying some natural highs as an alternative — the side effects are a lot more predictable!

Alice