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Understanding PCP Addiction and Treatment Options


PCP, or phencyclidine, is a psychedelic drug that results in hallucinations and produces a feeling of detachment from one’s surroundings. PCP was originally developed as an intravenous anesthetic used during surgery but was quickly discontinued because of its dangerous side effects. The National Drug Commission has since classified PCP as a schedule II hallucinogenic drug, meaning that it is a substance that alters sensory perception, mood, and thought, and which has a high potential for abuse and physical dependence.

In the United States, you can go to prison for making, distributing, possessing, or using PCP. Abuse of PCP is linked to violence, aggression, and psychosis. Hospitalization is often necessary during the withdrawal process, and because it can have such a marked effect on one’s behavior and emotions, it can be a difficult addiction to understand—even if you are the one who is addicted.

This is why professional PCP addiction treatment is so important in the recovery process. Addiction specialists have the experience and expertise necessary to help you and your loved ones navigate the complications of this addiction and emerge on the other side with the tools necessary to support a sustainable recovery plan.

The Unique Challenges of PCP Addiction

The effects of PCP abuse vary depending on how much of the drug is consumed and also the strength of the dose. Since PCP is produced illegally, it is not regulated or consistent, meaning users never really know how much of the drug they are consuming. Users may appear drunk, display a lack of muscle coordination, have slurred speech, or seem very relaxed. Alternatively, they may shiver, twitch, or rock back and forth. Not every person reacts the same way to this substance, and each time a person uses it they may respond differently.

Some people who abuse PCP go on binges, sometimes called “runs.” On a run, a person takes PCP several times over the course of two or three days, during which they do not sleep, eat, or drink. After two or three days, the person will sleep for a long time. A person on a PCP run may damage their internal organs as a result of not eating or drinking enough. 

Short-Term Effects of PCP Abuse

Even a low dose of PCP will result in high blood pressure and heart rate. A large dose, meanwhile, can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing to dangerously low levels. High dosages can also lead to seizures, respiratory failure, coma, stroke, and possible death.

Common short-term effects of PCP include:

  • Euphoria
  • Extreme calm, even lethargy
  • Sound, image, and body distortion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Loss of sensation, or feeling of numbness in limbs
  • Chills, sweating, nausea and/or vomiting
  • Anxiety, paranoia, or mood swings
  • Hyperactivity or mania
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Flashbacks
  • Psychosis

The longer someone uses PCP, the greater the risks become. Long-term effects of smoking PCP include cancers of the lung, throat, mouth, stomach, or bladder. Snorting PCP often damages mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, and throat, as well as holes in the palate and upper lung infections.

Those who inject PCP are subject to a separate set of consequences. The needles used to inject PCP are often shared between addicts. Needle sharing can result in HIV, Hepatitis, and various skin infections.

Long-Term Effects of PCP Abuse

PCP also affects neurotransmitter systems in the brain, interfering with the reuptake of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This can inhibit emotions and pain recognition, repress memories, and cause a significantly altered state of mind. Since PCP affects how the brain operates, PCP abuse can result in physical changes to a person’s brain structure. This can result in:

  • Memory loss
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor judgment and reasoning skills
  • Difficulty speaking or speech impediments

Those who have struggled with PCP addiction are also prone to depression, anxiety, and hallucinations. These problems can persist even after a person has stopped using the drug.

Know Your PCP Addiction Treatment Options

While ceasing use sooner, rather than later, is a vital first step in the PCP addiction treatment process, it is equally important not to attempt detox without medical support. Quitting PCP on your own at home, rather than with the assistance of trained addiction specialists, poses a number of unnecessary risks:

  1. Withdrawal symptoms. PCP withdrawal symptoms range from relatively minor tics, such as drowsiness or goosebumps, to potentially dangerous effects such as seizures. Medically supervised detox can mitigate these effects, even eliminating some entirely, while providing the comfort and security of 24/7 support in case of a crisis.
  2. Psychological distress. As previously discussed, PCP can wreak havoc on an individual’s thought patterns and emotions—as well as the brain itself—and this can affect a person’s mental wellbeing for months, even years, to come. Experienced clinicians have the knowledge and training necessary to help a person cope with, and ultimately move past, these effects using the right combinations of therapeutic approaches.
  3. Physical difficulties. The physical damage PCP can cause to a person’s body, on several levels, may be difficult to address on your own. Bodily wellness is best nurtured in a safe setting, with the help of experts who can help you improve your physical health and gradually regain fortitude at your own pace.
  4. Relapse. Relapse planning is an integral part of any comprehensive addiction treatment program. Working together with clinicians to develop coping strategies helps not only minimize the likelihood of relapse but gives you an effective plan of action for recovery should a relapse occur nonetheless.

PCP addiction treatment must begin, however, with accepting that you, or your loved one, needs help. Know that there is no shame in addiction—it can happen to anyone—and know, too, that recovery is possible regardless of how hopeless the situation may feel now. Taking things one step at a time, beginning with finding the right addiction treatment center, is all it takes to begin walking the path to recovery. It’s never too late to make a new choice.

If you or a loved one needs PCP addiction treatment right away, call us at (726) 888-7003 or contact us online. New Choices Treatment Centers offers medically supervised detox and long-term addiction treatment programming in the heart of sunny San Antonio, TX. We’re here to help—and if our program or facility isn’t right for you, we’ll help you find the one that is.