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PCP Abuse Can Have Dangerous Side Effects on Brain

Escapism is common in our culture. Movies, music, videogames, and plays all help us step inside another world, leaving the stresses of everyday life behind for a while. But what if you could step outside of your own mind? That’s often what happens with a certain type of hallucinogens called dissociative drugs. Dissociatives are often created for use in surgery as an anesthetic. At the right dosage, drugs like ketamine can provide pain relief, sedation, and a trance-like state. It’s commonly used by veterinarians.

Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as angel dust, is one such dissociative drug that has been abused for its hallucinogenic effects. You may not hear much about PCP abuse in the news today. The dissociative drug that was originally developed as a general anesthetic for surgical use has declined, at least in the public eye, since the 1990s.

However, it’s still available on the streets as an illicit drug and its extreme effects can leave lasting addictions.

What Is PCP?

PCP was developed as a powerful anesthetic for use during surgical procedures. The drug works as an antagonist for the NMDAR receptors in nerve cells that are responsible for memory and synaptic plasticity. The end result is ideally pain relief and sedation.

Because of these effects, PCP was made available to doctors and healthcare professionals in the 1950s. However, after a short time, it was removed because it caused dissociative and hallucinogenic effects in patients. Though anesthetics like PCP and ketamine are often associated with negative psychological side effects, specifically when it is first administered or when it is wearing off, PCP’s effects are fairly extreme depending on the dose.

By the 1960s, PCP became known as a dangerous street drug with a high probability for addiction and abuse. However, due to the drug’s very unique, and often unpleasant, effects, PCP abuse declined sharply in the late 1980s and 90s. This is possibly due to the widespread availability of alternatives like crack cocaine during that time.

It’s popularity has declined since then. However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported a 400% increase in PCP-related emergency room visits between 2005 and 2011. This may be partly due to accidental use. PCP itself is bitter and when it is ingested or inhaled it leaves a foul flavor. Instead, it’s often sprayed on tobacco or marijuana leaves and then smoked. When it is sold, unknowing victims may be expecting a less harmful substance while they take a dose of PCP.

PCP has very different effects depending on the dose but anything over 10 mg can cause convulsions. When other drugs are laced with PCP, the dosage can be hard to predict, leading to dangerous effects.

What are PCP Effects?

There are a number of specific effects that result from PCP abuse, but PCP effects can be relatively subtle at lower dosages. However, even doses under 5 mg, PCP can cause extreme side effects in some users.

At very low doses, common physical symptoms include:

  • numbness
  • tingling in the limbs
  • difficulty with movements and coordination
  • staggering with a very unsteady gait
  • slurred speech
  • lack of balance
  • bloodshot eyes

Moderate-level doses produce a more pronounced analgesia, or pain relief, as well as a level of anesthesia. PCP abuse becomes markedly more dangerous when taken at higher doses, especially since it can cause a person to suffer from involuntary convulsions.

On the street, controlling the dosage may be difficult to do. PCP sold on the street has varying levels of strength and adulterants that might dilute the drug.

PCP’s psychological effects are what make it unique and even more dangerous. PCP abuse causes a distorted perception your surroundings and yourself. It can result in a change in body image, depersonalization, and severe paranoia. There’s a slight sense of euphoria, but the hallucinations that accompany PCP abuse are one of the more pronounced and well-known effects of the drug.

The effects of dissociatives like PCP can be difficult to predict. Each person is different and the psychological effects can vary widely, playing of the victim’s own personality, brain chemistry, and past experiences.

In some cases, PCP has been known to cause suicidal impulses or unprovoked, violent, or aggressive behaviors. Some have described PCP’s intoxication as being in like a psychotic or schizophrenic state. However, it is believed that reports of violent behavior occurred in individuals who already had a history of violence. Though, it may be that the drug triggered or exasperated a violent episode.

As the drug’s effects peak, users experienced confusion, inability to think clearly, and inhibited memory, each of which can exacerbate the severity of many of the other effects. The effects of PCP are often described as a “snowball effect,” continuing to get worse and worse before the drug’s effects finally begin to subside.

In addition to the extreme effects of the drug like a dramatic increase in body temperature, racing heart, increase in blood pressure, damage to kidneys, and shallow breathing has been known to occur and cause either coma or death.

Is PCP Addictive?

Users who abuse PCP can administer the drug orally, intravenously, intramuscularly, via smoking or insufflation through the nose, or through a number of other means.

Though, like most hallucinogens, PCP does not produce a chemical dependency, it has been known to lead to psychological addiction. Its effects on the nucleus accumbens is what is believed to drive the drug’s addictive nature as shown in experiments with both rats and observations of human PCP users.

Repeated use of the drug can lead to some dangerous long term effects, including:

  • speech difficulties
  • memory loss
  • depression
  • suicidal  thoughts
  • anxiety
  • social withdrawal.

The effects of PCP can last even after habitual use is stopped, with symptoms sometimes lasting up to a year or more.

Fortunately, one can overcome PCP addiction with the help of an addiction treatment program. Abruptly ceasing PCP use has been known to be potentially dangerous, which is why most PCP treatment programs offer clinical detox to patients in order to mitigate some of the discomfort and potential dangers of withdrawal.

Get Drug Treatment Help Today

Although PCP is addictive and highly dangerous, nobody who’s addicted to PCP must continue to live in the throes of active addiction. If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation with one of our recovery specialists, call Drug Treatment Center Finder today at (855) 619-8070.

We’re available anytime, day or night, to help you or a loved one begin the recovery journey. Don’t wait another day. One phone call is all it takes to begin the first steps toward a long life of lasting health and sobriety.