It is crucial to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Yet addiction may pose even a higher danger than the virus.

Learn about recovery during the pandemic:

Symptoms Of PCP Use And Abuse

signs someone is on PCP

Important InformationThis information is for educational purposes only. We never invite or suggest the use, production or purchase of any these substances. Addiction Resource and it’s employees, officers, managers, agents, authors, editors, producers, and contributors shall have no direct or indirect liability, obligation, or responsibility to any person or entity for any loss, damage, or adverse consequences alleged to have happened as a consequence of material on this website. See full text of disclaimer.

PCP, the popular name for Phencyclidine, is a hallucinogenic substance that induces several mind-altering symptoms including out-of-body experiences, hallucinations, excessive feelings of grandeur, and distortions of thought. As a result of these PCP drug symptoms, users may pose a danger to themselves and others around them. Read on to find out how to recognize a person affected by Phencyclidine and what to do next.

Help Line Woman

Hope Without Commitment

Find the best treatment options.
Call our free and confidential helpline

Most private insurances accepted

Marketing fee may apply

Table of Contents

Signs Someone is on PCP

These are typical symptoms of PCP users when on the substance:

  • Talking to oneself: People on PCP often hear voices that are not there and see things that are not there. Consequently, they try to converse with these images, talking to themselves in the process.
  • Unexplained fidgeting: Someone on PCP may be unnecessarily apprehensive and anxious.
  • Unusually lowered inhibitions: Since PCP causes a feeling of excessive self-importance and grandeur, people on PCP throw caution to the wind while under the influence of the substance. This places them at risk of risky behaviors, including driving and engaging in violent activities.
  • Sudden communication problem: The individual may suddenly speak too fast or extremely slowly and inaudibly.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound: Hearing a loud noise or being exposed to bright lights causes them to become extremely violent.
  • Sudden elevated temperature: Someone under the influence of the drug usually feels so hot for a few hours before it resolves. So these individuals often take off their clothes or dive in a pool of water to cool off the heat.
  • PCP pupils: The pupils in someone under the influence of PCP are usually enlarged. The size normalizes after the drug’s effects have resolved.
  • Rapid eye movements: Looking into the eyes of someone on phencyclidine, the quick side-to-side movements – called horizontal nystagmus – can be noticed. Vertical nystagmus PCP sign may also occur.
  • Someone on PCP is usually insensitive to pain. They can suddenly cause harm to themselves and not even feel it until they have recovered.

Note that these PCP drug symptoms are not persistent. They last for 4 to 48 hours, depending on how much is taken and how long it stays in the system. How long does PCP stay in your system? It remains an average of 5 days but might be as long as ten days if taken in large amounts.

Besides, while ketamine may also cause these symptoms because it has the same PCP chemical structure, ketamine is less potent, and its symptoms do not last as long.

woman on PCP in the middle of the street

Signs of Phencyclidine Addiction

What signs suggest that people on PCP may be addicted to it? These signs include:

  • Excessive use: People who are addicted to phencyclidine have a strong urge to use it most times.
  • Addiction leads to tolerance, causing users to take higher and higher doses to achieve the desired effect.
  • Spending too much to maintain the supply of the drug, to the extent of going broke.
  • Engaging in risky activities, such as driving under the influence of phencyclidine, despite experiencing the side effects of PCP.
  • Isolation from people, especially people they once loved spending time with. This causes serious interpersonal relationships and difficulty carrying out work tasks.
  • Reduced work or school performance and having problems with authorities as a result of PCP drug symptoms.
  • Persistent use of phencyclidine despite the resultant social problems, such as loss of a job, arrest, separation from one’s spouse, and poor academic performance
  • The occurrence of withdrawal symptoms of PCP use (anxiety, seizures, muscle twitching, headaches, and sweating), once the drug is abruptly discontinued.
  • Inability to quit: Typically, people who are addicted to phencyclidine – and other substances of abuse – have multiple failed attempts at quitting its use.
  • Symptoms may persist in PCP users before and after use of the substance. This is a phenomenon called flashback, in which users experience the signs of the drug even when they have not used it.

man with signs of PCP addiction

How to Identify Phencyclidine

To identify phencyclidine, one needs to know its street names, how it looks, and how it smells.


What is PCP, and how is it called on the streets? The common PCP nicknames include boat, hog, KJ, crystal cyclone, an elephant tranquilizer, angel dust, rocket fuel, embalming fluid, whacko tobacco, PeaCe pill, Supergrass, superweed, and killer joints.


One also needs to know the types it comes in.

Angel dust is available in different forms. It occurs in tablets/capsules, liquid, and powder forms.

Phencyclidine can also be injected, snorted, smoked, and taken orally. The liquid form is often sprayed or sprinkled on leafy materials, such as marijuana, mint, oregano, parsley, and ginger leaves, and then smoked.

Color And Taste

In its purest form, it occurs as a white crystalline powder which dissolves easily in water. It also has a unique bitter, chemical taste. The other impure forms, available on the illicit drug market, contain contaminants that change its color.

The color of these impure forms of phencyclidine range from light to dark brown and these forms may have a gummy texture. These contaminants do not alter PCP structure, therefore do not modify the symptoms of angel dust.

This helps differentiate it from ketamine, another drug in the same PCP classification of anesthetics. Ketamine is colorless.


Does PCP have an odor?

Yes, it has a distinctive smell. Many users report that it smells like a permanent marker. It, however, has an oily, slightly ammoniacal smell.

Sometimes, one may only perceive the smell of its base material.

Many users take it in combination with other psychoactive substances; for example, marijuana laced with PCP – with marijuana being the base. When smoked or snorted, one can perceive PCP smell as that of the leafy material.

This is another ketamine vs. PCP distinguishing feature, as ketamine is odorless.

How To Help Someone With Angel Dust Use Symptoms

Ever wondered: what is PCP like? As described above, it could be awful and dangerous. So if someone is high on PCP nearby, try to stay a distance away from them to prevent second-hand smoking and avoid violent attacks from them. When the individual becomes sober, speak with them about it, and assist them in getting professional help in a phencyclidine treatment program.

Help Line Woman

Hope Without Commitment

Find the best treatment options.
Call our free and confidential helpline

Most private insurances accepted

Marketing fee may apply

  1. Phencyclidine. Compound Summary. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

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.


Leave a comment