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PCP Fact Card

What is PCP?

Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, can be classified as an anesthetic, a dissociative, or a hallucinogen. PCP was originally dispensed as an anesthetic and as an animal tranquilizer, and during the 1960s and 70s, it gained popularity as a recreational drug. Due to its many side effects, PCP and its chemical precursor piperidine were made illegal in 1978; and its popularity waned over the balance of the 20th century. [1] In recent years, however, illicitly produced PCP has made a comeback. According to estimates from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), PCP-related emergency department visits increased by over 400% between 2005 and 2011 (from 14,825 to 75,538 visits). [2] PCP maintains a strong presence in the inner-city neighborhoods of many eastern United States municipalities, where it serves as a cheaper alternative to crack cocaine.

PCP Types

In its pure form, PCP is a white, crystalline powder. Less pure forms range from yellowish-tan to brown and can have a sticky consistency. In years past, PCP, particularly its powder form, was referred to as angel's dust. The majority of today's street PCP is produced in illicit labs in southern California and is sold in a clear to yellow-hued liquid form, commonly known as the slang wet. This form of PCP is typically smoked after being applied to marijuana, tobacco, or the leaves of herbs, such as mint. Less commonly, it can be injected. [1] A popular method for smoking PCP involves dipping the tip of a cigarette into a vial of liquid PCP, then allowing the cigarette to dry. This is referred to as dipping and the final product is known as a dipper. Cigarette dipping allows for the drug to be consumed in public without detection.

PCP Powder
PCP Powder

What are the effects of PCP?

PCP can act as a CNS depressant, a CNS stimulant, or a PNS stimulant, resulting in a very wide range of possible effects. These effects can vary from person to person, and from dose to dose. Effects sought after by PCP users might include sedation, euphoria, loss of inhibitions, analgesia, anesthesia, and dissociation. As dose size increases, the potential for negative side effects increases, including but not limited to overheating, hypertension, rapid eye movements, rapid or irregular heartbeat or breathing, muscle spasms, psychosis, paranoia, schizophrenia, catatonia, body contortioning, convulsions, unresponsiveness to deep pain, violence, hallucinations, and coma. [1]

PCP is known for its potentially powerful dissociative effects, where users become detached from reality and self — in addition to potentially powerful anesthetic effects, where users experience loss of sensations, including the sensation of pain. Due to this unique combination of effects knows as dissociative anesthesia, self-inflicted injury can occur — for instance walking into traffic or self-laceration without noticing the pain. PCP is notorious for producing dramatic, extreme, and potentially violent behavior in some users, particularly when higher doses are used. The majority of PCP-related deaths occur not as a direct result of the drug itself, but as an indirect result of violent or unpredictable behavior induced by the drug. [1]

Urine Testing for PCP

PCP urine tests target phencyclidine, with possible cross-reactivity for a list of different PCP metabolites and analogs, including PCM, PCPy, PCHP, TCM, TCP, TCPy, PCC, and PCDE. Phencyclidine is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting phencyclidine (PCP)[3]

PCP Drug Test
PCP Drug Test

According to "Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man" (3rd ed): approximately 4–19% of a PCP dose is recovered in the urine as unchanged PCP (phencyclidine), with 25–30% recovered as conjugated metabolites. Unchanged parent drug in the urine of ambulatory users of PCP most frequently ranged from 40–3,400 ng/mL. Renal clearance of PCP is increased significantly with acidification of the urine (lower pH value). [3]

Related Pages


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  1. Bey T, Patel A. (2007, Feb). "Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug". The California Journal of Emergency Medicine, 8(1): 9-14. PMCID:PMC2859735, [PDF file]
  2. (2013, Nov 12). "The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Phencyclidine (PCP)". Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Retrieved from: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN143/DAWN143/sr143-emergency-phencyclidine-2013.htm, [PDF file]
  3. Baselt RC, Cravey RH. (1989). "Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man" (3rd ed, pp 661–662). USA: Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc.

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