PCP Side Effects: Long- And Short-Term Reactions

side effects of PCP

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Although physical addiction to phencyclidine is rare, many PCP side effects can occur in people who abuse this drug. The short term effects of PCP are dose-dependent. When used long term, this drug can affect a person’s memory, speech, appetite, and sleep.
Besides, PCP psychosis, consisting of hallucinations, paranoia, and aggressive behavior, has been described in some users of the drug with no prior history of psychiatric problems. What does PCP do to a person? Are there ways to reduce or prevent the occurrence of signs and symptoms related to its use? Let’s find out.

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Table of Contents

PCP Short Term Effects

Many people who abuse phencyclidine for a PCP high do not realize the nasty signs and symptoms this drug can cause. Some people combine PCP marijuana use, further endangering their life. There are certain classic angel dust drug side effects. The most common picture seen with phencyclidine use disorder is one of violent behavior, PCP nystagmus, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, and analgesia.

What does PCP do to the body?

Some of the physical effects of the PCP molecule include:

  • Impairment of motor control
  • Constriction of pupils and blurring of vision
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased pain perception
  • Speech disturbance ranging from incoherence to inability to speak
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Blank staring
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular, shallow, or slow breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased saliva production
  • Increased body temperature and sweating alternating with chills
  • Convulsions, stupor, coma, or death at high doses

How does phencyclidine affect the brain?

The PCP mechanism of action is by disrupting the neurotransmitter glutamate and also by influencing the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

Phencyclidine is often compared to other drugs with a similar action, for example, PCP vs. ketamine, some of which cause less severe side effects. Some of the short-term psychological symptoms of phencyclidine use include:

  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness or relaxation
  • Dissociation with the environment
  • Feelings of alienation
  • Feelings of weightlessness
  • Distortion of time and space or disorientation
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion and difficulty focusing
  • PCP schizophrenia with agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions
  • Bizarre or erratic behavior or PCP rage
  • Obsessions
  • Irrational and overwhelming panic or terror about the imminent death

woman in panic after PCP consumption

Long Term Effects of PCP

Due to its numerous side effects on the mind and body, PCP schedule is II (controlled substance). In addition to the more immediate signs and symptoms that phencyclidine causes, several long-term consequences can prove dangerous.

Long-Term PCP Physical Effects

  •  Speech impediments including stuttering, problems with articulation, and inability to speak
  • Tolerance with increasingly higher doses needed to produce a degree of euphoria.
  • Physical and psychological dependence on the drug with withdrawal symptoms when the drug is withheld.
  • Binge use (known as “runs”) with repeated use of the drug for 2-3 days with lack of food or sleep, followed by a period of deep sleep. Runs can occur up to four times a month in people with substantial drug use.

Long-Term PCP Mental Health Effects

  • Impaired memory
  • Flashbacks such as those experienced by LSD users
  • Severe anxiety and depression leading to potential suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Isolation and social withdrawal
  • PCP violence or aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Auditory hallucinations

The Effects of PCP on Pregnancy

Expectant mothers who abuse phencyclidine during pregnancy expose their baby to the drug and its side effects.

Studies show that in utero exposure to angel dust can lead to neonatal narcotic withdrawal syndrome. Symptoms include jitteriness, increased tone, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The diagnosis is made based on the presence of the drug in the baby’s and mother’s urine. It is worth noting, however, that PCP false positive on urine screen can occur due to the presence of certain medications.

Babies exposed to phencyclidine may suffer from sleep and temperament problems. Other effects of angel dust abuse during pregnancy include abnormal attachment behavior and small weight for age.

Factors Affecting PCP Drug Side Effects

The intensity of the physical and psychological side effects caused by phencyclidine is dependent on the dose. People who take less than 5 mg tend to experience milder side effects while those who take doses above 10 mg typically suffer from more intense PCP effects on the body. At lower doses (2-5 mg), unpredictable, drunk, combative, and euphoric behavior may alternate with periods of agitation or lethargy. At higher doses (5-25 mg), muscle contractions, hyperthermia, stupor, convulsions, coma, and death may occur.

dying patient in emergency care

The emergence of side effects is also influenced by user-specific factors such as personality, expectations, and previous experience with the drug. For example, studies have shown that violent behavior and increased levels of hostility with phencyclidine use are increased when the age of the user, age at first use, and frequency of use are taken into consideration. People with a prior history of hospitalization for psychiatric problems tend to have a higher incidence of psychosis and assault behavior than those with no prior psychological issues. Also, personality and background features affect the self-reporting of PCP effects on the brain.

Preventing Side Effects of Phencyclidine

People who are abusing phencyclidine should speak to a physician about safely coming off the drug. During PCP drug treatment, healthcare professionals can help reduce and prevent side effects. They can also help overcome angel dust withdrawal symptoms and the dangers of PCP in a safe manner.

Mild phencyclidine intoxication and side effects can be treated within several hours, whereas chronic use may require a few weeks of treatment.

Some medications are available to treat phencyclidine-induced psychosis and other PCP effects. Symptomatic treatment for high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar levels, and convulsions can be given as needed under the care of a doctor. Besides, side effects such as violent outbursts can be reduced by keeping the person in a closely-monitored, dark, and quiet environment with minimal provoking tactile and auditory stimuli in one of the drug rehab institutions.

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View Sources
  1. Wachsman L, Schuetz S, Chan LS, Wingert WA. What happens to babies exposed to phencyclidine (PCP) in utero? Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1989;15(1):31-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2923109
  2. Strauss AA, Modaniou HD, Bosu SK. Neonatal manifestations of maternal phencyclidine (PCP) abuse. Pediatrics. 1981 Oct;68(4):550-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7322687
  3. 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859735/
  4. McCardle L, Fishbein DH. The self-reported effects of PCP on human aggression. Addict Behav. 1989;14(4):465-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2782129

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