Learn About the Effects of PCP

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Originally developed in the 1950s as an intravenous surgical anesthetic, PCP is in a class known as dissociative drugs. The drug was used in veterinary medicine but was discontinued for use in humans due to its side-effects.

The drug became a drug of abuse in the 1960s when it appeared in pill form and in the 1970s when it came available in powdered form. A common practice was to sprinkle powdered PCP on marijuana joints and smoke it, but it can also be snorted or in pill form swallowed.

The onset of its sedative and anesthetic effects are rapid. Users report having a trance-like experience or a feeling of being "out of body" or detached from their environment. Users can experience shallow breathing, increased blood pressure and heart rate and elevated body temperature.

Effects of Dissociative Drugs

Here is a list of side-effects of dissociative drugs in general:

Low to Moderate Doses

  • Numbness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Changes in sensory perceptions
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of detachment from self and environment
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid respiration rate
  • Increased body temperature

Effects of Higher Doses

Other Dangers of PCP Use

In addition to the general effects noted above, PCP users can become extremely aggressive or violent and can experience psychotic symptoms similar to schizophrenia. When PCP is used with high doses of alcohol or other depressants it can lead to respiratory distress or arrest, resulting in death

Unpredictable Effects

The effects of PCP are unpredictable and can vary widely from user to user. In some users, it can cause muscle contractions that can produce uncoordinated movements and bizarre postures. These contractions can become so extreme they can result in muscle breakdown leading to kidney damage. Very high doses of PCP can cause convulsions, coma, hyperthermia, and death, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse research.

PCP Use Is Not Popular

These extreme side-effects are the main reason that PCP has gained a bad reputation even among the most adventurous drug users. Consequently, the prevalence of PCP use in the U.S. has declined drastically in the last 20 years. There are many other effects that dissociative drugs can cause.

The Long-Term Effects of PCP

Unfortunately, there has been very little research into the long-term effects of PCP and other dissociative drugs, therefore, the full extent of using PCP over a long period of time is not completely understood. Some researchers have reported the following long-term effects:

  • Memory loss
  • Speech difficulties
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Social withdrawal

There is some scientific evidence that some of the above long-term effects can persist for a year or more after users stop doing dissociative drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some users develop a tolerance for dissociative drugs, meaning it requires more of the drug to produce the same effects. Long-time users of dissociative drugs have reported withdrawal symptoms when they quit using, including headaches, sweating, and craving for the drug.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs." Research Report Series Updated January 2014

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "PCP." Drug Guide. Accessed March 2014.

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