Phencyclidine or PCP is a dissociative type of anesthetic with hallucinogenic properties. It was developed in the 1950’s as an anesthetic and administered intravenously. After reports of delusions, psychosis, and other side effects PCP was restricted to veterinary purposes, and then was eventually discontinued. PCP began to emerge briefly as a recreational drug in the San Francisco area in 1967, a dissociative drug means that it can distort the way a person sees and hears things. The drug is commonly referred to as “wet” or “amp”, when PCP is snorted, ingested or when it is smoked on top of marijuana or other leaves it may be called a “sherm” or “dipper”.
As previously stated PCP is a “dissociative” anesthetic. Dissociative drugs block signals from the conscious mind from different parts of the brain. PCP is also considered a hallucinogenic due to the auditory/visual distortions produced when taking the drug. Federally classified as a schedule II narcotic, the possession, consumption, and distribution of PCP is illegal.
PCP was created in 1926 and later tested post World War II as a surgical anesthetic. Due to the number of adverse effects, it was taken off the market until the 1950s. In 1967, it was marketed under the name Sernylan and used as a veterinary anesthetic, but was again discontinued. The side effects produced by the drug and long half-life in the human body made it unsuitable for medical purposes. Today, there are no medicinal uses for PCP; any current use of the drug is purely recreational.
When snorted or smoked, PCP quickly travels to the brain and interrupts normal functions of some of the brains receptor sites known as NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor complexes, which are receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate receptors play a large part in our perception of pain, learning, memory, and emotion. PCP also alters the actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the euphoria with drugs.
Some PCP side effects are:
- Loss of coordination
- Extreme mood changes
- Visual distortion
- Audio distortion
- Feelings of impending doom
Some extreme effects or signs of overdose may be:
- Shallow breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Blurred vision
With regards to the anesthetic/hallucinogenic properties there are many drugs similar to PCP. Ketamine which is commonly used in veterinary practices, and human medical practices as well. Ketamine has a wide range of effects in humans, including analgesia, anesthesia, hallucinations, elevated blood pressure, and acts as a bronchodilator. Other drugs that fall into this category are: LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote.
Addiction to PCP needs to be addressed and treated as soon as possible to preclude long-term brain damage. PCP is linked with the development of a brain condition called Olney’s lesions. Simply stated, such a condition involves “holes” in the brain.
Short-term PCP users are not cleared from detrimental health consequences. PCP use in adolescents has been correlated with deficient growth patterns and issues with cognitive and emotional development. Short and long term users experience memory loss, impaired functioning, depression, increased anxiety, and difficulties sustaining normal day-to-day activities, such as working and playing sports.
Chronic PCP users often exhibit symptoms similar to schizophrenic patients. At times such schizophrenic episodes are intertwined with psychotic episodes. Compounded by these intense symptoms is the sensation of dissociation from reality. When on PCP, hallucinations can occur. For example, one may hallucinate a vision of having wings and then try to jump off of a tall building in an attempt to fly. When used in conjunction with peyote, acid, mushrooms, or other mind-altering substances, it becomes even more dangerous.
Withdrawing from chronic PCP use is an unpleasant journey that varies per user. PCP users who have smoked or injected the drug for a prolonged period of time may experience symptoms that are similar to those they experienced using PCP. Drug rehabilitation is recommended for PCP addicts so clinicians and addiction professionals can safely monitor them.
PCP withdrawal symptoms commonly involve:
- Confused thinking
It’s important that detoxification from PCP incorporates a carefully monitored process in which the client undergoes 24/7 care maintenance by trained clinicians.
In the event of a PCP overdose, medical attention should be sought immediately. Near-lethal doses of the toxin can result in altered states of consciousness, coma, seizures, uncontrollable eye twitching, psychosis and high blood pressure. A visit to the emergency room is not uncommon for those who overdose on PCP.