Health Effects of PCP
PCP or “angel dust,” formally known as phencyclidine, is a manmade substance originally invented in the 1950s as a form of intravenous anesthesia for humans, pets, and other animals. However, the federal government outlawed its use in the 1960s, and it exists now only as an illegal, recreational street drug. PCP produces effects that vary according to a number of factors, including dosage, the method of use, and the psychological state of the user. Chief among these effects are numbness, euphoria, altered sensory perceptions, and psychological dissociation (a condition characterized by feelings of detachment from reality). PCP use also comes with very real risks for a variety of damaging short- and long-term health effects.
Most of the “desirable” effects of PCP-including euphoria, perceptual changes, numbness and detachment-come with the use of relatively low dosages of roughly 5 to 10 mg. Other potential immediate or short-term effects of these low dosages include confusion, blurred vision, anxiety, irrational or illogical speech, and blackouts or amnesia. Medium doses of PCP (10 to 20 mg) can produce immediate or short-term health consequences that include paranoia, delusions, agitation, violent behavior, confusion, high fever, lowered susceptibility to pain, and irrational or delusional thought patterns that mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia. In high doses (20 mg or more), PCP can produce immediate or short-term effects that include high fever, seizures, strokes, coma, respiratory failure (also known as respiratory acidosis), or even death. However, most PCP-related deaths stem from suicide or accidental injury.
PCP can be smoked, snorted, injected, or eaten. Typically, smoking produces the lightest dosages of the drug, while snorting and injection produce moderate dosages and oral ingestion produces the highest dosages. However, it’s important to note that all PCP in the U.S. is manufactured illegally in uncontrolled circumstances. In practical terms, this makes it impossible to accurately gauge the strength of an individual dose, regardless of the method of use, since no one knows for sure how much pure phencyclidine any given amount of the drug actually contains. In addition, the dangers of PCP increase when the drug is used in combination with benzodiazepine medications, alcohol or any other central nervous system depressant.
Lingering Effects of Chronic Use
According to experts at Medscape Reference, PCP normally takes effect within a few minutes and lasts anywhere from a few hours (when used in low dosages) to roughly two days (when used in extremely high dosages). However, chronic users of the drug can experience delayed effects, known as flashbacks, from any given PCP “trip” as long as a few weeks or months later. This occurs because a certain amount of the phencyclidine that enters the bloodstream gets stored inside tissues in your brain, liver and fat cells; in chronic users, this storage process leads to the buildup of considerable amounts of the drug. At unpredictable times, stored phencyclidine makes its way back into bloodstream circulation and re-triggers PCP’s effects, even in the absence of recent active use.
Chronic Use and Psychological Addiction
PCP does not cause physical dependence in human beings. This means that, over time, your body’s physical systems do not gradually start to rely on the presence of phencyclidine in order to operate “normally. ” However, the drug can produce psychological dependence in long-term or chronic users. This means that some habitual PCP users develop a mental or psychological reliance on the drug and, as a result, experience extensive changes in their personalities, belief systems, moral values, or general outlook on life. Some habitual users also develop a psychological addiction to PCP, which combines dependence with an ongoing craving and a compulsion to seek out and use the drug, even in the face of serious penalties or social consequences such as legal action, job loss, or irreparable damage to long-term relationships.
Other Long-Term Effects
In addition to flashbacks and psychological addiction, potential long-term effects of chronic PCP use include depression, decreases in normal memory function, disruption of normal thought processes, disruption of normal speaking abilities, unusual weight loss and unpredictable changes in mood or personality. In most cases, these symptoms resolve themselves within one year after use of the drug is discontinued. Pre-teens and teenagers who use PCP can potentially experience permanent decreases in their learning capacity or damage other aspects of their growth and development. People with a PCP addiction typically benefit from the same types of psychological or psychiatric programs used to treat other forms of drug or behavioral addiction.