PCP Risks, Effects, & Addiction

PCP is an illicit drug with many serious effects and risks.1

This article will go over the dangers of PCP use, PCP addiction, and treatment options.

What Is PCP?

PCP is an abbreviation for phencyclidine, a dissociative drug with hallucinogenic properties. Dissociative drugs can cause people who take them to feel disconnected from both their body and environment.1

PCP was originally developed for medical use in the 1950s as an anesthetic drug but was discontinued for this purpose because it often produced unpleasant postoperative effects such as hallucinations or delirium.2

PCP is commonly known by several street names, including “angel dust,” “ozone,” or “rocket fuel.”2

PCP is sometimes found as a white or colored powder, but may also be encountered on the illicit market in other forms, including tablets, capsules, or liquids.1

PCP can be snorted, swallowed, injected, or ingested.1 It can also be sprayed onto or added to marijuana and tobacco.1 Marijuana cigarettes containing PCP are sometimes called “killer joints,” “supergrass,” “wets,” or “waters.”2

A 2021 national survey found that around 6,464,000 (2.3%) Americans 12 years old or older had used PCP in their lifetime, with 183,000 (0.1%) respondents having used PCP in the past year.3

PCP Effects & Risks

There are potentially serious adverse effects and risks when using PCP. These effects can vary as the doses increase. Some of the general immediate effects and health risks associated with PCP use include:1

  • Hallucinations.
  • Sweating.
  • Difficulty thinking.
  • Feeling detached or distant from your environment.
  • Anxiety.
  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Paranoia.
  • Difficulty with movement.
  • Delusions.
  • Nausea.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Aggression.
  • Coma.
  • Death

PCP use has been linked to self-injury. Those who inject PCP or other drugs also are at increased risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases from shared needles.1

Chronic PCP use may result in memory loss, difficulty with speech or thinking, loss of appetite, increased anxiety, or even prolonged psychosis that can develop into schizophrenia.1,4

PCP Overdose

People can overdose on PCP, which can sometimes be fatal. A PCP overdose may also be referred to as PCP toxicity.5 Some of the signs and symptoms of PCP overdose include the following:5

  • Uncontrolled eye movements (i.e., nystagmus).
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Delusions.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Severe agitation.
  • Muscle rigidity.
  • Muscular incoordination.
  • High body temperature (i.e., hyperthermia).
  • Rapid heartbeat and elevated blood pressure.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

PCP overdose requires immediate medical help.

Illicit drugs such as PCP may also contain fentanyl or other contaminants, which could change how overdose effects present.1 If opioids like fentanyl are suspected to be involved, administering Narcan (naloxone) may reverse the potentially fatal respiratory depressing effects of an opioid overdose, allowing time for paramedics to arrive.6

Is PCP Addictive?

PCP has addiction potential. The clinical term for PCP addiction is a phencyclidine use disorder.7

PCP’s pharmacological properties can influence the activity of several different neurotransmitter systems, including dopamine,5 a signaling molecule in the brain associated with the rewarding effects of certain drugs and the reinforcement of certain behaviors associated with addiction.8 Someone with an addiction to PCP will continue taking and seeking out the drug despite its significant negative consequences.8

Signs of PCP Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines a phencyclidine use disorder as having two or more of the following symptoms within a 12-month period:7

  1. Taking PCP in increasingly large doses or over a longer period than originally intended.
  2. Expressing the desire or making several attempts to cut back or quit using PCP.
  3. Spending a lot of time trying to get, use, or recover from taking PCP.
  4. Having cravings or urges to use PCP.
  5. Using PCP causes the failure to fulfill major obligations in life, including at work, school, or home.
  6. Continuing to use PCP despite it causing social or interpersonal problems.
  7. Giving up or cutting back on activities once enjoyed due to PCP use.
  8. Using PCP in situations that are physically dangerous (like driving).
  9. Continuing to use PCP despite knowing that it has caused or worsened a physical or mental health problem.
  10. Developing a tolerance for PCP. In other words, either more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect or using the same amount results in experiencing a markedly diminished effect.

PCP Addiction Treatment

There are a variety of different evidence-based treatment modalities used to treat addiction, including therapeutic approaches (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management), peer support, treatment for co-occurring disorders, and more.9

Treatment plans are most effective when they are customized to meet the patient’s unique needs, which may take into account the patient’s physical health, mental health, social situation, history with substance use, and other factors.9,10

Treatment can be provided through multiple levels of care. At Desert Hope, this includes:

To find out more information about the various types of rehab or to start treatment today, call . Admissions navigators can also answer your questions about insurance coverage and other ways to pay for rehab at our inpatient addiction treatment facility in Las Vegas or outpatient center. We are available 24/7 for a free, private phone consultation. You can also verify your insurance coverage using the .

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