The Effects of Taking Various Doses of PCP

What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body? | National Institute on Drug Abuse

The Effects of Taking Various Doses of PCP

Laboratory studies suggest that dissociative drugs, including PCP, ketamine, and DXM, cause their effects by disrupting the actions of the brain chemical glutamate at certain types of receptors—called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors—on nerve cells throughout the brain (Morgan, 2012; Morris, 2005).

Glutamate plays a major role in cognition (including learning and memory), emotion, and the perception of pain (the latter via activation of pain-regulating cells outside of the brain).

PCP also alters the actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the euphoria and “rush” associated with many abused drugs.

Salvia divinorum works differently. While classified as a dissociative drug, salvia causes its effects by activating the kappa opioid receptor on nerve cells (Cunningham, 2011; MacLean, 2013). These receptors differ from those activated by the more commonly known opioids such as heroin and morphine.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Dissociative Drugs?

Dissociative drugs can produce visual and auditory distortions and a sense of floating and dissociation (feeling detached from reality) in users. Use of dissociative drugs can also cause anxiety, memory loss, and impaired motor function, including body tremors and numbness.

These effects, which depend on the amount of the drug taken, are also unpredictable—typically beginning within minutes of ingestion and lasting for several hours, although some users report feeling the drug’s effects for days. See text box for general effects of dissociative drugs.

General Common Effects of Dissociative DrugsLow to Moderate Doses High Doses
  • Numbness
  • Disorientation, confusion, and loss of coordination
  • Dizziness, nausea, vomiting
  • Changes in sensory perceptions (such as sight, sound, shapes, time, and body image)
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of detachment from self and environment
  • Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Physical distress, including dangerous changes in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature
  • Marked psychological distress, including feelings of extreme panic, fear, anxiety, paranoia, invulnerability, exaggerated strength, and aggression
  • Use with high doses of alcohol or other central nervous system depressants can lead to respiratory distress or arrest, resulting in death

In addition to these general effects, different dissociative drugs can produce a variety of distinct and dangerous effects. For example, at moderate to high doses, PCP can cause a user to have seizures or severe muscle contractions, become aggressive or violent, or even experience psychotic symptoms similar to schizophrenia.

At moderate to high doses, ketamine can cause sedation, immobility, and amnesia. At high doses, ketamine users also report experiencing terrifying feelings of almost complete sensory detachment ned to a near-death experience (called a “K-hole,” similar to a bad LSD trip).

Salvia users report intense but short-lived effects—up to 30 minutes—including emotional mood swings ranging from sadness to uncontrolled laughter.

DXM, which is safe and effective as a cough suppressant and expectorant when used at recommended doses (typically 15 to 30 milligrams), can lead to serious side effects when abused.

For example, use of DXM at doses from 200 to 1,500 milligrams can produce dissociative effects similar to PCP and ketamine and increase the risk of serious central nervous system and cardiovascular effects such as respiratory distress, seizures, and increased heart rate from the antihistamines found in cough medicines.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Dissociative Drugs?

While the long-term use of most dissociative drugs has not been investigated systematically, research shows that repeated use of PCP can lead to tolerance and the development of a substance use disorder that includes a withdrawal syndrome (including craving for the drug, headaches, and sweating) when drug use is stopped. Other effects of long-term PCP use include persistent speech difficulties, memory loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and social withdrawal that may persist for a year or more after chronic use stops.

NIDA. 2020, June 2. What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body?. Retrieved from

NIDA. «What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body?.» National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2 Jun. 2020,

NIDA. What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body?. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. June 2, 2020


Substance use — phencyclidine (PCP)

The Effects of Taking Various Doses of PCP

Phencyclidine (PCP) is an illegal street drug that usually comes as a white powder, which can be dissolved in alcohol or water. It can be bought as a powder or liquid.

PCP can be used in different ways:

  • Inhaled through the nose (snorted)
  • Injected into a vein (shooting up)
  • Smoked
  • Swallowed

Street names for PCP include angel dust, embalming fluid, hog, killer weed, love boat, ozone, peace pill, rocket fuel, super grass, wack.

Alternative Names

PCP; Substance abuse — phencyclidine; Drug abuse — phencyclidine; Drug use — phencyclidine

PCP's Effects on Your Brain

PCP is a mind-altering drug. This means it acts on your brain (central nervous system) and changes your mood, behavior, and the way you relate to the world around you. Scientists think it blocks the normal actions of certain brain chemicals.

PCP is in a class of drugs called hallucinogens. These are substances that cause hallucinations. These are things that you see, hear, or feel while awake that appear to be real, but instead have been created by the mind.

PCP is also known as a dissociative drug. It causes you to feel separated from your body and surroundings. Using PCP may make you feel:

  • You are floating and disconnected from reality.
  • Joy (euphoria, or «rush») and less inhibition, similar to being drunk on alcohol.
  • Your sense of thinking is extremely clear, and that you have superhuman strength and aren't afraid of anything.

How fast you feel the effects of PCP depends on how you use it:

  • Shooting up. Through a vein, PCP's effects start within 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Smoked. The effects begin within 2 to 5 minutes, peaking at 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Swallowed. In pill form or mixed with food or drinks, PCP's effects usually start within 30 minutes. The effects tend to peak in about 2 to 5 hours.

Harmful Effects of PCP

PCP can also have unpleasant effects:

  • Low to moderate doses can cause numbness throughout your body and loss of coordination.
  • Large doses may cause you to be very suspicious and not trust others. You might even hear voices that are not there. As a result, you may act strangely or become aggressive and violent.

PCP's other harmful effects include:

  • It can increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature. At high doses, PCP can have an opposite and dangerous effect on these functions.
  • Because of the pain-killing (analgesic) properties of PCP, if you get seriously injured, you might not feel pain.
  • Using PCP for a long time can cause memory loss, thinking problems, and problems talking clearly, such as slurring words or stuttering.
  • Mood problems, such as depression or anxiety can develop. This can lead to suicide attempts.
  • A very large dose, usually from taking PCP by mouth, may cause kidney failure, heart arrhythmias, muscle rigidity, seizures, or death.

PCP can be Addictive

People who use PCP can get psychologically addicted to it. This means their mind is dependent on PCP. They are not able to control their use of it and they need PCP to get through daily life.

Addiction can lead to tolerance. Tolerance means you need more and more PCP to get the same high. If you try to stop using, you may have reactions. These are called withdrawal symptoms, and may include:

  • Feeling fear, unease, and worry (anxiety)
  • Feeling stirred up, excited, tense, confused, or irritable (agitation), having hallucinations
  • Physical reactions may include muscle breakdown or twitching, weight loss, increased body temperature, or seizures.

Treatment Options

Treatment begins with recognizing there is a problem. Once you decide you want to do something about your PCP use, the next step is to get help and support.

Treatment programs use behavior change techniques through counseling (talk therapy). The aim is to help you understand your behaviors and why you use PCP. Involving family and friends during counseling can help support you and keep you from going back to using (relapsing).

If you have severe withdrawal symptoms, you may need to stay at a live-in treatment program. There, your health and safety can be monitored as you recover. Medicines may be used to treat withdrawal symptoms.

At this time, there is no medicine that can help reduce the use of PCP by blocking its effects. But, scientists are researching such medicines.

Your Ongoing Recovery

As you recover, focus on the following to help prevent relapse:

  • Keep going to your treatment sessions.
  • Find new activities and goals to replace the ones that involved your PCP use.
  • Spend more time with family and friends with whom you lost touch while you were using. Consider not seeing friends who are still using PCP.
  • Exercise and eat healthy foods. Taking care of your body helps it heal from the harmful effects of PCP. You will feel better, too.
  • Avoid triggers. These can be people you used PCP with. Triggers can also be places, things, or emotions that can make you want to use it again.


Resources that may help you on your road to recovery include:

Your workplace employee assistance program (EAP) is also a good resource.

When to Call the Doctor

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you or someone you know is addicted to PCP and needs help stopping. Also call if you are having withdrawal symptoms that concern you.


Iwanicki JL. Hallucinogens. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 150.

Kowalchuk A, Reed BC. Substance use disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 50.

National Institute on Drug Abuse website. What are hallucinogens? Updated April 2019. Accessed June 26, 2020.

Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


PCP Effects

The Effects of Taking Various Doses of PCP

Phencyclidine, commonly referred to as PCP, causes hallucinatory and dissociative effects. The drug disrupts the way different parts of the brain communicate. It also acts on the part of the brain in charge of pleasure, causing an intense euphoric rush.

Many people use the drug to feel high and to hallucinate. other dissociative drugs, PCP can make people feel disconnected from the body. These effects are desirable for some people. But they’re also accompanied by health risks.

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Panic
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

PCP also has pain-relieving properties. Individuals may get injured while using the drug and fail to realize it. The drug can also increase the risk of violent behavior. People under the influence of PCP may do things they wouldn’t do while sober, suchas get into fights or hurt others.

The effects of PCP can be felt within five minutes of smoking the drug and within an hour of swallowing it. PCP stays in your system longer than many other drugs. The hallucinogenic effects may last between four and eight hours when the drug is smoked and six to 24 hours when it’s taken in pill form.

What Does PCP Do?

PCP affects the way brain cells react to glutamate. Glutamate is the brain’s most important chemical for normal brain function, according to the second edition of the textbook Neuroscience.

Glutamate is involved in nearly all of the brain’s vital processes, including learning, forming memories, feeling emotions and experiencing pain. PCP disrupts how the brain’s receptors react to the chemical, according to the Center for Substance AbuseResearch.

That’s why PCP changes our ability to feel pain and create memories. It also causes a range of intense emotions, such as loneliness, anxiety and depression.

PCP can also cause euphoria because it affects another chemical in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that makes us feel happy. It’s also involved in the disease of addiction. Drugs that disrupt the way the brain releases and uses dopamineare more ly to cause addiction than drugs that don’t affect dopamine.

PCP Overdose Symptoms

Most people experience mild effects of PCP when they consume a dose of five milligrams or less. The drug causes more intense effects after a dose of 10 milligrams or more. These effects may vary depending on a person’s tolerance and personal factors,such as weight and age.

Taking a large dose of the drug increases the chance of experiencing life-threatening overdose symptoms.

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Kidney failure
  • Vision problems
  • Shivering
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Combining PCP with other drugs may also increase the risk of overdose. Many people lace marijuana with PCP. Weed laced with PCP may increase the chances of hallucinations or overdose symptoms.

Mixing PCP and benzodiazepines can cause coma, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

PCP can also cause deadly overdoses and increase the risk of accidental death. The drug has been associated with drownings, car accidents, falls from high places, suicides and homicides.

Long-Term Effects of PCP

Repeated use of PCP can lead to dependency and PCP addiction. Dependency is a physical reliance on a substance. After repeated exposure, the brain will depend on PCP to function normally. Without the drug, the brainwill go into withdrawal.

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Tension
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Twitching
  • Weight Loss
  • Seizure

The brain also develops a tolerance to PCP over time. Individuals who use the drug regularly require higher doses to feel its effects.

Some people become addicted to PCP. They’re unable to quit using the drug on their own. The risk of drug addiction is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Some people can develop tolerance and dependency toPCP without becoming addicted.

  • Speech problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Social isolation
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty thinking

other hallucinogens, PCP may increase the risk of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. HPPD causes flashbacks to hallucinations and visual distortions.

Individuals who are dependent on PCP should speak to a doctor about safe ways to stop taking the drug. During rehab for PCP addiction, health professionals help people overcome withdrawal in a safe environment.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


PCP Fast Facts

The Effects of Taking Various Doses of PCP

ARCHIVED January 1, 2006.  This document may contain dated information.
It remains available to provide access to historical materials.

Maine Drug Enforcement Agency

PCP (phencyclidine) was developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic, but its use for humans was discontinued because it caused patients to become agitated, delusional, and irrational. Today individuals abuse PCP because of the mind-altering, hallucinogenic effects it produces.

What does PCP look ?

PCP is a bitter-tasting, white crystalline powder that is easy to dissolve in water or alcohol. PCP may be dyed various colors and often is sold as a tablet, capsule, liquid, or powder.


Users snort PCP powder, swallow tablets and capsules, or smoke the drug by applying it (in powder form) to a leafy substance such as marijuana, mint, parsley, or oregano. In addition, users increasingly are dipping marijuana or tobacco cigarettes in liquid PCP and smoking them.

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Who uses PCP?   

Individuals of all ages use PCP. Data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 6 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older used PCP at least once in their lifetime.

The survey also revealed that many teenagers and young adults use PCP—225,000 individuals aged 12 to 17 and 777,000 individuals aged 18 to 25 used the drug at least once.

PCP use among high school students is a particular concern. More than 3 percent of high school seniors in the United States used the drug at least once in their lifetime, and more than 1 percent used the drug in the past year, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey.

What are the risks?

PCP is an addictive drug; its use often results in psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive behavior. PCP produces unpleasant psychological effects, and users often become violent or suicidal.

PCP poses particular risks for young people. Even moderate use of the drug can negatively affect the hormones associated with normal growth and development. PCP use also can impede the learning process in teenagers.

High doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and even death (often as a consequence of accidental injury or suicide while under the drug's effects). At high doses, PCP's effects may resemble the symptoms associated with schizophrenia, including delusions and paranoia.

Long-term use of PCP can lead to memory loss, difficulty with speech or thought, depression, and weight loss. These problems can persist for up to a year after an individual has stopped using PCP.

What is it called?

The most common names for PCP are angel dust, animal tranquilizer, embalming fluid, ozone, rocket fuel, and wack. Marijuana or tobacco cigarettes that are dipped in PCP are called illy, wet, or fry. (Please see the Street Terms text box below for additional names.)

Street Terms for PCP

Animal tranq Black dust Boat Cliffhanger Crystal t Dipper

Dust joint

Goon dust Happy sticks Horse tranquilizer Kools Lethal weapon

Magic dust

Magic dust O.P.P. Paz Peter Pan Shermans


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Is PCP illegal?

Yes,  PCP is illegal. PCP is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs, which include cocaine and methamphetamine, have a high potential for abuse. Abuse of these drugs may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Other products of interest:

Check out Fast Facts on:

  • Crack cocaine
  • Crystal methamphetamine
  • GHB and analogs
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Jimsonweed
  • Ketamine
  • Khat
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA
  • Methamphetamine
  • Powdered cocaine
  • Prescription drugs
  • Yaba

Also available from NDIC:

  • Huffing—The Abuse of Inhalants
  • Prescription Drug Abuse and Youth
  • Drugs, Youth, and the Internet

For more information on illicit drugs check out our web site at:  Call 814-532-4541 to request NDIC products.

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