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What Type Of Drug Is PCP? Schedule And Classification

PCP Type of drug

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The PCP category is a hallucinogen and dissociative drug, because it induces feelings of detachment, and distorts sound and sight in the individual who took the drug. In the beginning, PCP or Phencyclidine was a surgical anesthetic, later on being used only as an animal tranquilizer due to the high number of patients who experienced postoperative hallucinations and delirium.

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Table of Contents

Is PCP a Controlled Substance?

Under the Controlled Substances Act, PCP is a Schedule II substance. The drugs included in Schedule II class, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, come with a high potential for abuse and acute physical and psychological dependence.

Phencyclidine was transferred from Schedule III class to Schedule II class on January 25, 1978.

In Canada, the PCP drug is a Schedule I class drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, in the Netherlands, it is a List I drug under the Opium Law and in the United Kingdom, a Class A substance.

Is PCP a Narcotic?

Phencyclidine is not a narcotic. Narcotics or painkillers bind themselves to the nervous system pain receptors blocking the pain signals. These drugs are prescribed to treat severe pain that does not respond to any other type of pain relievers.

Angel Dust is similar to a narcotic in this aspect, as it also blocks NMDA receptors responsible for emotions, pain sensation, memory functions, and learning. The inability to experience pain and the loss of sensation gives Phencyclidine users the illusion of what is called ‘superhuman strength.’

But this is the only thing these two drugs have in common. It should be noted that administering narcotics to an individual with acute Phencyclidine intoxication might cause a crisis that might prove to be fatal.

man feeling like a superhero on PCP

Is PCP an Opiate?

Phencyclidine is not an opiate. Because opiates are, in fact, a type of narcotics, there is an implicit similarity with Phencyclidine. Opiates also act as depressants on the CNS (Central Nervous System) blocking the perception of pain, but also inducing a feeling of well-being and euphoria. The most common opiates are morphine, prescription painkillers, codeine, heroin, Vicodin, and Percocet.

But although both Phencyclidine and opiates block pain receptors, mixing the two drugs, even in small doses, can lead to serious side effects, such as a decrease in the heart rate and breathing causing respiratory arrest and even death.

Is PCP a Horse Tranquilizer?

The first PCP synthesis dates back to the 1950s when the drug was used as an intravenous anesthetic being widely applied in the medical community because it could provide effective anesthesia without negatively impacting the lungs and heart of the patient. But due to its adverse side effects, such as severe anxiety, postoperative psychosis, and dysphoria Phencyclidine was discontinued as a human anesthetic in 1965.

From 1967 the drug was used only for veterinary purposes, rapidly gaining popularity as an animal tranquilizer.

This is where “horse tranquilizer,” one of the other names for PCP comes from.

Is PCP a Depressant or a Stimulant?

Phencyclidine acts as a depressant, stimulant, anesthetic, and analgesic, being used for its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. Depending on the dose used, the user can experience the side effects of either PCP stimulant or depressant.

This drug is renowned for its variety of side effects and unpredictability. As a stimulant, it increases stamina, alertness, energy, muscle power, and mood, by acting upon the peripheral nervous systems and the central nervous system.

As a depressant, Phencyclidine lowers the neurotransmission levels, inducing ataxia, sedation, pain relief, anxiolysis, sedation, cognitive impairment, drowsiness, low blood pressure, and lowered heart rate.

The long term effects of PCP include speech problems, impaired memory, extreme weight loss, high paranoia and anxiety, severe depression,  delusional thinking, suicidal thoughts, and isolation, to name a few.

woman high on PCP

Is PCP a Hallucinogen?

The PCP drug class is a hallucinogen. The drug is a glutamatergic NMDA receptor blocker binding to the particular cortex and limbic structures in the brain, affecting the norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine release and reuptake. The result of this process is a dissociative anesthetic state entailing detachment, amnesia, sedation and sound, and sight distortion.

As a hallucinogen, Angel Dust affects how the individual perceives everyday reality, time, and the surrounding environment and alters coordination and thought process. Phencyclidine can make people hear voices, feel sensations, and see things that do not exist, leading to panic, anxiety, paranoia, fear, and violence.

These side effects are similar to the ones given by another drug, Dextromethorphan. At high doses, DXM is classified as a hallucinogen and dissociative general anesthetic, that is why the comparison DXM vs. PCP will be found in many studies.

How long does PCP last? These side effects can last from 30 minutes if one smokes the drug or up to 6 hours if one swallows Phencyclidine tablets or snort Angel Dust.

How long does PCP stay in the system? The drug stays in the body from 24 to 48 hours, depending on the dosage and frequency of use.

What Type of Drug Is PCP?

The Phencyclidine drug class is hallucinogen, with notoriety as an abused substance. It is usually found on the streets as a combination PCP-weed as joints, known as ‘killer joints.’ The drug is illegal to buy, use, or sell in the US. Therefore it is manufactured illegally.

As a hallucinogen, Angel Dust has a moderate potential for creating dependence, and there are records of people who underwent PCP detox. Other risks associated with the class of hallucinogens are life-threatening accidents and personal injury due to unpredictable, bizarre behavior. The professional drug abuse treatment may be required to cope with the aftereffects of this substance. Drug rehab centers providing such services operate nationwide and accept insurances in most cases.

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  1. Isaacs SO, Martin P, Washington JA Jr. Phencyclidine (PCP) abuse. A close-up look at a growing problem. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1986 Feb;61(2):126-9.
  2. Phencyclidine (PCP). University of Maryland. Center for Substance Abuse Research

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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