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What is Phencyclidine?
Phencyclidine or PCP (Molecular Formula C17H25N) is a synthetic hallucinogenic or dissociative drug that is considered one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the current list of drugs of abuse. Developed as a general anesthetic drug, its medical usage was discontinued due to its addictive nature and negative side effects.
PCP, in its pure form, is a crystalline, white powder that easily dissolves in water and alcohol. Like bath salts and spice (K2), abuse of PCP also results in detached, aggressive behavior and a feeling of invincibility and invulnerability.
Phencyclidine has been sold disguised as methamphetamine, THC, mescaline, LSD, MDMA, and even formaldehyde. Based on a 2000 report of DEA, ecstasy (MDMA) sold in the streets often contains PCP.
Will Phencyclidine Appear on a Drug Test?
Because PCP abuse has become more widespread, many Drug Tests are now designed to detect PCP among other substances. Like many other Hallucinogens, the drug can be detected in a Urine Drug Test four to seven days after use. For those who are using the drug substance, it can appear in urine even up to 30 days after initial use. Some individuals may incorporate special diets or detox programs to move the product through the body. There has been no scientific evidence that proves these strategies work. The best way to clear the drug from the system is to discontinue the use of the drug and allow the body to naturally remove the substance.
Screening Cut-Off and Detection Time
There are two cut-off levels in drug testing to show positive detection. The initial drug testing is deemed negative if the drug detected is below the cut-off level. A negative reading does not necessarily mean there is no drug in the system. It may indicate that there is a drug in the system but its level is below the cut-off point. If the initial result is positive a confirmatory test is required to support the initial test.
DEA Drug Class
DEA or the Drug Enforcement Administration is the federal agency that is in charge of all drug-related concerns. This includes the use, abuse, trade, manufacture and other illegal activities relating to illicit substances use and abuse. The 1970 Controlled Substance Act or CSA is the set of laws and by-laws relating to prohibited drugs.
Based on CSA, PCP is a schedule II drug. This drug has a high potential for abuse and currently has an accepted medical use in the treatment or medical use with strict restrictions. Abuse of PCP may lead to physical or psychological dependence.
Phencyclidine Drug Type
Phencyclidine is a synthetic drug classed under a diverse group of hallucinogens. These are drugs that alter feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. They cause images and sensations that seem reel even if they are not. Natural hallucinogens are also found in some mushrooms and plants. Some hallucinogens are synthetic and are therefore man-made.
PCP is also classified as a dissociative drug. This type of drug disrupts the actions of glutamate on the brain’s nerve cells. Glutamate is a chemical that plays a major role in a person’s perception, cognition, and emotion. PCP also changes the actions of dopamine which is the neurotransmitter associated with the feeling of euphoria.
Forms and Routes of Administration
Phencyclidine or PCP is sold on the street in crystal, white powder, tablets, capsules, and liquid forms. Most PCP bought on the illicit drug market are contaminated as they are manufactured in makeshift laboratories. PCP with contaminant color range is from tan to brown: consistency range is from powder to gelatinous mass. PCP can be snorted, swallowed, or smoked alone or in combination with other substances such as MDMA, marijuana, or tobacco.
PCP or Phencyclidine forms and routes of administrations include powder/tablet and liquid
Powder –It is most commonly sold in tablets of multiple colors and in varying doses. Powdered PCP can be taken orally, snorted or sprinkled onto leaves for smoking. When snorted or smoked, the effect is felt in 2 to 5 minutes and lasts for four to six hours. When ingested, the effect is felt after 30 to 60 minutes, lasting from 6 to 24 hours.
Liquid – This is phencyclidine which is often dissolved in ether. As this drug is water-soluble, a PCP tablet is crushed and dissolved in water and sometimes taken as injectable. When smoked, liquid PCP is sprayed onto leaves such as marijuana, parsley, oregano or mint then rolled into a cigarette. The injection of PCP is not very common.
Uses of Phencyclidine
PCP was used as a surgical anesthetic for humans during its early years. Its use with humans was discontinued when its effects became evident. Subsequently, the drug was used in veterinary medicine as an animal tranquilizer. Currently, the use of PCP for veterinary purposes is quite rare. The drug is illicit and is being used recreationally.
PCP Street Names
- Straight PCP
- Angel Dust
- Animal Trank
- Peace Pills
- Sherm Sticks
- Embalming Fluid
- Super Grass
- PCP/Marijuana Combination
- Dust Blunt
- Fry Sticks
- Love Boat
- Happy Stick
- Elephant Flipping
PCP Drug Effects and Symptoms
Phencyclidine affects the functioning of the brain receptors which plays a part in one’s perception of pain, emotion, and memory as well as learning abilities. It also triggers the neurotransmitter dopamine which is responsible for the euphoria experienced with drug use.
The effects of phencyclidine depend on the dosage, personality of the user, expectations, and experience with the drug. Dosage of 5mg or fewer results in milder effects, while 10mg or more of PCP could lead to erratic and intense behavior.
Levels of Intoxication
PCP or Phencyclidine Levels of intoxication varied depend on the dosage
Low dosage: impaired judgment; mood elevation; dreamy
Moderate dosage: failure of muscular coordination; dissociated; confused; inebriated; decrease in pain sensation
High dosage: all of the symptoms mentioned; blank stare, catatonia; hallucinations; delirium; drooling; amnesia; psychosis; hypertensive crisis
Short-Term Effects of PCP (Psychological)
- Relaxation or drowsiness
- Mild to intense euphoria
- Distorted sense of one’s body; a feeling of weightlessness
- Feelings of dissociation and unreality with the surrounding
- Auditory and visual hallucinations; sensory distortions
- The sense of time and space is distorted
- Trouble concentrating and thinking
- Disorientation and confusion
- Intense feelings of alienation
- Hostile or bizarre behavior
- Obsession with trivial matters
- Terror, panic, and the overwhelming fear of imminent death
Short-Term Effects of PCP (Physiological)
- Blurred vision and constricted pupils
- Impaired motor skills
- Blank staring
- Speech problems
- Rigid muscles
- Less sensitivity to pain, touch
- Coma or stupor
- Abnormally low/high blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sweating, chills
Long-Term Effects of Phencyclidine
- Chronic users have the tendency to binge on PCP for up to 3 days straight
- Stuttering, inability to speak, or inability to express
- Severe and chronic depression and anxiety could lead to suicide
- Social isolation and withdrawal
- Psychosis, paranoia, hostile or aggressive behavior
- Drug dependence or addiction
- Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal
PCP abusers will quickly develop tolerance to the drug more so if they practice “runs” or binge on this drug for days without stop. The danger of binging is overdose which could ultimately lead to death. PCP is highly addictive. Psychological dependence on this drug is a step away from physical dependence or addiction. The user becomes an abuser and an addict as this is the progression. At this stage, the addict craves the drug not only psychologically but physically. Withdrawal symptoms will manifest if he fails to take the drug.
Memory loss, depression, speech impairment, cognitive problems, and weight loss are some of the withdrawal symptoms that may last a year after the initial detoxification of the abuser. Other withdrawal symptoms include increased sleep and increased appetite.
Health Conditions that Make Taking PCP more Dangerous
A study regarding pregnant PCP users indicated that they gave birth to babies who showed withdrawal symptoms. It was assumed that succumbing these babies to cold turkey will basically overcome diarrhea, vomiting and other physical indications of withdrawal.
- The long-term effects of PCP-abuser mothers on newborns such as physical and mental problems became evident before they reached the age of 2 years.
- The muscle tone of the head is similar to children with cerebral palsy
- At six months, the babies continue to display irritability, tremors, and jitteriness
- By nine months, the babies still cannot figure out what to do with their hands
- By 12 months, their IQs start to drop
- At 20-24 months, they still cannot coordinate their tongues to form words
- Illegal drugs and breastfeeding do not go together. Illicit substances and drugs pass from the mother’s bloodstream into breast milk and are therefore harmful to the baby’s health. PCP is one of these illegal drugs.
History of Phencyclidine
Phencyclidine (PCP), first synthesized in 1926, was developed and sold as Sernyl by Parke, Davis, and Company in the 1950s. In 1978, PCP became an illegal substance in the United States.
Phencyclidine (PCP), first synthesized in 1926, was developed and sold as Sernyl by Parke, Davis, and Company in the 1950s. The term PCP is attributed to its chemical name Phenylcylohexyl Piperdine and the drug’s abbreviated street name of PeaCePill.
PCP was initially used as an effective anesthetic drug for surgical procedures as it did not show negative effects on the lungs and heart. However, its adverse side effects such as dysphoria, severe anxiety, and post-operative psychosis led to the discontinuance of its production in 1965.
PCP use was restricted for veterinary use as an efficient animal tranquilizer.
PCP hit the street scene in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, the center of the hippie movement in the 1960s. It was manufactured in underground laboratories, and this mind-altering drug peaked in the 1970s. The drug was snorted, smoked, or swallowed. It was easily available on the street, thanks to those clandestine laboratories.
In 1978, PCP became an illegal substance in the United States. It is a controlled substance and is classified as a drug with a high probability of abuse, or physical or psychological dependence.
The use of PCP declined in the 1980s and 1990s. However, PCP’s use as a recreational drug recently increased as it is now grouped as a club drug together with ketamine, ecstasy, Rohypnol, and LSD.
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