PCP in the body and on the brain
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06-28-16 Category: Cognition, Substance Abuse

PCP in the body

Phencyclidine – PCP, angel dust, hog, ozone, rocket fuel, shermans, wack, crystal, embalming fluid – is a powerful animal tranquilizer. Users take it for the euphoric effects it produces. However, these good times pale in comparison to the damage PCP inflicts on the body and brain.

Different doses, different results

How much PCP a person ingests determines how the person will react:

  • 2 to 5 milligrams: Users can appear drunk or disoriented. Feelings of euphoria can quickly give way to rage and combativeness. Physically, the user will experience periods of lethargy and agitation. Unlike other stimulants, PCP can produce ataxia
  • 5 to 25 milligrams: Users succumb to stupor or even mild coma. While not reactive to surface stimuli, they can feel deep pain
  • 25 milligrams or more: Coma. No response to deep pain. Convulsions and death.

In some cases, individuals who take doses of 5 to 10 milligrams may experience acute schizophrenia. PCP can also cause arrhythmias and because the drug directly affects laryngeal and pharyngeal reflexes, users are at risk for obstructed airways.

New methods, but the same effects

While not nearly as popular as it was in the 1970s and early 1980s, PCP has enjoyed a resurgence among young people. They render the drug into liquid form and dip cigarettes into the solution; thus, dealers call out “Wet, wet, wet” to announce their product. These users have no illusions regarding the effects; they want the hallucinations that come with the high.

Stories of PCP users believing themselves to be superheroes and jumping from buildings are almost as old as the drug itself. It is certainly true that PCP can cause users to experience hallucination and panic. The most infamous cases involve abusers who become combative, causing injuries to themselves such as concussions and broken bones that they only feel after the effects wear off. Those who are spared the worst effects may still experience a dramatic increase in body temperature and adrenaline.

PCP on the brain

Phencyclidine disrupts the function of glutamate, a neurotransmitter. Glutamate plays a role in how the brain interprets pain, which is why people high on PCP apparently feel no pain. There is not a large body of research into the long-term effects PCP has on the brain. Scientists believe continual use can result in the following:

  • Problems with speech
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Paranoia

Death and the E.R.

Statistics on PCP-related deaths are scarce. It is believed roughly 3 percent of substance abuse deaths are due to PCP. According to one source, PCP-related emergency room visits in 2008 were up 9,000 over 2007. One reason is PCP can remain in the body for up to eight days, though it reaches maximum potency six to 24 hours following ingestion.


Sovereign Health Group takes a comprehensive approach to treating substance abuse. Drug addiction is a disease. The body becomes drug-dependent. But addiction is also fueled by underlying psychological factors. Merely treating the physical addiction only addresses half the problem. At Sovereign, we heal the body and treat the mind. Our substance abuse treatment program utilizes tradition and experimental treatment modalities to ensure each patient receives the highest level of care. Contact our 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the author:

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.

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