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Phencyclidine (PCP)

Published on March 8, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on March 26, 2024 at 8:00
Synonyms The most common synonyms are:
  • Angel dust, Crazy Eddie, Crystal, Elephant, Horse tranquilizers, Mess, Milk, Peace pill, Purple rain, Rocket fuel, TH.
PCP is often sold under the name mescaline.
Classification Central nervous system disruptor (dissociative anesthetic):
  • Disrupts mental processes: causes varying degrees of disturbances in brain function, perception, mood and cognitive processes.
Visual description
  • Crystalline powder (initially white)
  • Coloured tablets and capsules
Mechanism of action
  • Depends on the dose ingested:
    • Low doses: phencyclidine binds to a binding site within the NMDA receptor channel (causes mild inebriation).
    • High doses: blocks the reuptake of monoamines (noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin) and the release of catecholamines (effect similar to amphetamines).
Routes of administration
  • Ingested, smoked (added to herbs or marijuana in a cigarette), snorted and injected.

Effects sought out by the user

  • Altered perception (similar to LSD):
    • Body trip: distortion of body perception
    • Distortions of time, space and body image as well as visual and auditory distortions
  • Euphoria
  • Feeling of dissociation
  • Feeling of inebriation
  • Feeling of weightlessness/floating
  • Relaxation
  • Stimulates pleasure
  • Visual/auditory hallucinations

Common toxic effects

  • Anxiety
  • Blank staring
  • Blurred vision
  • Catatonic state: stereotyped movements, grimacing, sudden inability to speak
  • Confusion
  • Coordination problems
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive tearing, salivation, sweating
  • Feelings of alienation
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mutism (lack of verbal expression)
  • Myosis (constriction of the pupils)
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Nystagmus (involuntary eye movement)
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Problems with attention/concentration/thought
  • Retrograde amnesia
  • Speech problems
  • Stupor
  • Tachycardia

Overdose effects

  • Abnormal increase in body temperature
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Hypertensive crisis
  • Kidney failure
  • Muscle disorders
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Precipitation of a latent psychotic episode
  • Respiratory arrest
  • State of agitation: aggression, impulsiveness, violence
  • Stroke
  • Suicide
  • Toxic psychosis

Effects associated with chronic use

  • Aggressiveness, violence
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Paranoid disorders
  • Social isolation
  • Suicide
  • Toxic psychosis

Tolerance (need to increase the dose to feel the same effect)

May develop as a result of regular use.


Mainly psychological.


Yes, but poorly documented.

Onset and duration of action
Route of administrationOnset of actionPeakDuration of action
SmokedA few minutes30 minutes4 to 6 hours, then gradually wears off over 24 hours

Intoxication management

  • If ingested, smoked or snorted: administer activated charcoal.
  • No antidote available.
  • Treatment is mainly symptomatic.
Many different street drugs are sold under the same name. Furthermore, nothing guarantees the quantity, purity or even the content of a street drug in spite of the fact that it may, in some cases, look like medication.

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