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What Does PCP Do? Angel Dust Mechanism Of Action

Uses and mechanism of action of PCP

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Even though PCP use initially included certain medical purposes in the human body, it was banned and is today used recreationally due to the hallucinogenic effects induced by the substance. Whether considering PCP medical use or recreational use, understanding the mechanism of action yielded by the substance is crucial.
This post takes a closer look at how the substance acts in the human body and also considers potential effects that the PCP compound may have when used for recreational purposes. An overview of the PCP chemical formula and how dangerous the compound can be is also presented.

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Table of Contents

PCP Mechanism Of Action

To understand how the drug affects the human body when utilized in any form, it is important to start by considering the PCP mechanism of action. The question that comes in mind is what type of drug PCP is. When it comes to asking a question like how PCP works, it is first crucial to note that the chemical structure of the compound is very similar to that of Ketamine.

Whether a person is smoking PCP or using it in a pill form, the mechanism of action would remain the same, as there are specific receptors that are affected by the substance. Most people do seem to prefer inhalation as an administration method. More specifically, when a person uses this drug, it will interact with NMDA receptors in the patient’s body. These receptors are also known as N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors.

The PCP ingredients cause these NMDA receptors to become inhibited.

When the NMDA receptors in a patient’s body are inhibited, it causes the person to experience a dissociative state. This is essentially what yields the hallucinogenic effects that have been associated with the use of PCDP compounds.

People using weed laced with PCP and other variations of the substance will experience a similar mechanism of action, but with additional effects caused by the compounds that the PCP is laced with.

Medical Uses For PCP

Today, PCP is most often talked about as a recreational drug. When looking at people on PCP, one would usually find information about the adverse effects that occur when individuals decide to abuse the drug, what many people do not know if the drug was first developed for medical purposes. The Phencyclidine mechanism of action was initially used in both human subjects and animals.

To be more specific, the substance as used as a general anesthetic. It should be noted, however, that physicians initially used the element in humans, but later the use of the compound as medicine in human subjects was banned. This was primarily due to the PCP side effects and the addictive potential that the mixture yielded in people who the substance was used on as an anesthetic agent.

While the use of the chemical has been banned for medical use in humans, the substance is still considered an effective anesthetic agent in veterinary care.

dog in veterinary clinic

PCP Recreational Use

PCP is technically considered a street name for this particular drug. The scientific name that is used to refer to the compound is Phencyclidine. Another common term that is used to refer to this substance is “Angel Dust.” This is usually the term used when the drug is distributed illegally for recreational use.

When the street name for PCP is used, and the drug is sold illegal to humans, it is not the anesthetic effects of the substance that people are looking for.

Changing the emotional state

Recreational use of the substance is usually due to the effects that the compound has on the emotional and psychological state of a person. When the drug is used, many people may experience a hallucinogenic effect. This is similar to what a person may experience with some other illicit substance classified as hallucinogens.

When it comes to looking at what Angel Dust does, this is where recreational use can become dangerous.

Generally, most people find that the PCP formula tends to reduce their ability to experience pain sensations. In turn, this can cause the person to participate in painful activities since they would not feel the pain.

This is primarily why the drug is considered dangerous – these activities could quickly put the person’s life in menace.

There are also many reports that a high is experienced together with the hallucinations that may occur while the compound is active in the person’s system.

Risks of recreational use

When used for recreational purposes, the person would usually utilize the drug relatively frequently. This can cause resistance to the active compounds to develop. In turn, that individual may need to use more of the substance the next time.

People who use PCP for recreational purposes are at risk of developing a dependency on the drug. It has been found that the substance has addictive potential. When addicted, a person is also at risk of experiencing PCP withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to get their hands on more of the substance.

What PCP Does To The Human Body

Individuals who are at risk of abusing the drug may require PCP intervention programs. Most of the modern drug rehab centers offer various approaches to recovery that meet the individual needs of the patient. Choosing the right treatment approach is the important step in overcoming addiction.

While the PCP had medical uses in the past, today it is considered a dangerous and illegal substance. As noted in this post, it can cause several harmful effects on the human body. For this reason, individuals who fail a drug test should be taken into consideration as possibly addicted to the substance. At the same time, it is important to note that it is also possible for a Phencyclidine false positive to occur when a person uses certain medicines, such as Tramadol.

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  1. Tareg Bey, Anar Patel. Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug. Cal J Emerg Med. 2007 Feb; 8(1): 9–14.
  2. Allaoua H, Chicheportiche R. Anaesthetic properties of phencyclidine (PCP) and analogues may be related to their interaction with Na+ channels. Eur J Pharmacol. 1989 Apr 25;163(2-3):327-35.

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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