Phencyclidine Intoxication - PCP

What is Phencyclidine?

Phencyclidine - what is it, and what is phencyclidine intoxication? More commonly known as PCP, it was initially used as an IV anesthetic drug. The side effects that patients felt after being given the drug led to the discontinuation of the drug. But those same side effects turned it into an illicit drug that is now commonly sold on the street.  PCP can be found in powder form and smoked or mixed with water and turned into a liquid, which can then be injected, drank, or eaten. Users also dip cigarettes into the liquid, or put PCP in marijuana and smoke it together. PCP has a very distinctive bitter chemical smell and taste, which makes it easily recognizable, especially to law enforcement. 

Short Term Side Effects

PCP has a lot of desirable short term side effects. They include:

  • Euphoria/feelings of happiness
  • Stimulant effects/hyperactivity 
  • Hallucinations, 
  • Perception changes – the way a user experiences light, color, touch, and sound may be altered 
  • Experiencing changes in time – time will feel like it is speeding up or slowing down. 
  • Users also may have an out of body type experience.

The side effects of PCP usage usually begin somewhere around 30-45 minutes if ingested, and within a few minutes if smoked or injected. Phencyclidine intoxication can last from 4-6 hours or up to 24 hours if PCP is taken in higher doses.

There are also some adverse side effects, which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Delirium
  • Inability to distinguish reality from fantasy/hallucinations
  • Can cause severe aggression as well
  • Amnesia/memory loss. 
  • Numbness of extremities
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Rapid involuntary eye movements or a blank stare
  • Psychosis that can present similarly to schizophrenia.
  • A slight increase in breathing rate
  • A rise in blood pressure and pulse or sometimes a significant drop in blood pressure and pulse rate
  • Shallow respiration
  • Flushing and sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Drooling
  • Loss of balance and dizziness
  • Violence
  • Suicide 
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death, which sometimes occurs accidentally because of a user’s altered perception – they may inadvertently endanger themselves. Unintentional suicide is a known side effect of the drug.

Long Term Side Effects

Some of the long term effects of phencyclidine intoxication and use can be incredibly dangerous. These include: 

  • Psychological dependence
  • Memory loss
  • Severe depression
  • Difficulty learning
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks, where a user feels the effects of the drug even once it is out of their system

It’s also possible for the user to suffer from psychosis during a PCP ‘trip’ and it could be long-lasting or even permanent. This is more likely when someone uses PCP for days at a time and does not sleep. Long term PCP use can cause users to stutter and have an inability to find words. It can also cause a user to have difficulty articulating thoughts, forget certain words, or even cause the loss of the ability to speak. Severe anxiety and suicidal ideation are also typical results of long-term PCP use. This drug can also cause numbness, which can lead users to hurt themselves and suffer from severe injuries. These are injuries that the user would have likely prevented if sober. PCP can also cause a user to feel invincible, which plays a role in injuries and accidental death. 

Long term PCP use can also cause severe damage to the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Excessive PCP use can cause rhabdomyolysis – which is a condition that causes the breakdown of skeletal muscles, which can lead to kidney damage. If a user is smoking the drug, it can cause severe damage and cancer to the lungs, as well as cancer of the throat, mouth, stomach, and bladder.

Phencyclidine Intoxication - Can You Overdose on PCP?

Yes, you can absolutely overdose on PCP. Overdose symptoms include coma, seizure, and death. An overdose is much more likely when PCP is mixed with other substances, especially depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines.

If an overdose is suspected, a person should be brought to the hospital as soon as possible and should not be left alone. Someone suffering from a PCP overdose can become dangerous, violent, and suicidal in some instances. 

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