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PCP Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 11, 2024 (Originally Published)

March 11, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

PCP (phencyclidine) is a dissociative anesthetic developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic. Despite its initial medical application, the use of PCP in medical settings was discontinued as the medication frequently triggered post-operative delirium. PCP is also a drug of abuse and classified as a Schedule II substance for its high risk of dependence and addiction. Read on to learn more about PCP addiction and find out how to connect with evidence-based treatment.

Is PCP Addictive?

PCP was originally used as a general anesthetic and sold in the United States under the trade name Sernyl. Its use was later abandoned for human applications in 1967 due to the widespread emergence of postoperative hallucinations and feelings of discomfort in those taking the medication. Since then, its legal application has been confined to veterinary practices.

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Despite its removal from human medical use, PCP gained popularity as an illicit street drug in the 1960s. It has been produced illegally in labs and is known by various street names, including:

  • Angel dust
  • Dust
  • Ozone
  • Embalming fluid
  • Rocket fuel

PCP can be addictive even though withdrawal syndrome is not established for hallucinogens. Ongoing PCP use often leads to the development of tolerance, meaning that more of the drug is required to deliver the initial high. Increasing consumption or the frequency of consumption is likely to accelerate the formation of physical dependence on the drug.

Many people who use PCP long-term become psychologically dependent on the substance and its dissociative effects. Although aggravating and disruptive, PCP addiction is also treatable.

Signs of PCP Addiction

Those who have become addicted to PCP might display a variety of behavioral and psychological symptoms, including extreme aggression or violence. They may seem disoriented, delirious, or detached from reality. PCP addiction signs may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Grandiosity
  • Euphoria
  • Hyper-sensitivity
  • Memory loss
  • Suicidal ideation

The manifestations of PCP abuse can vary widely from person to person and may result in unpredictable actions or reactions.

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PCP Addiction Symptoms

PCP addiction is described clinically as phencyclidine use disorder. The symptoms are outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as follows:

  1. Using more PCP than intended or using the drug for longer than anticipated.
  2. Making repeated failed attempts to discontinue use of PCP.
  3. Spending excessive time using PCP and recovering from its effects.
  4. Experiencing powerful cravings for phencyclidine.
  5. Using PCP even though it’s prompting neglect of personal and professional obligations.
  6. Continuing to use PCP even though its use is leading to problems in personal relationships.
  7. Giving up important activities in favor of using PCP.
  8. Frequently using PCP in potentially dangerous situations – before driving, for instance.
  9. Ongoing use of PCP despite its use causing or inflaming a physical or psychological health condition.
  10. Developing tolerance so that more PCP is needed to deliver the initial effects.

Although withdrawal symptoms from PCP have been observed in animal studies, withdrawal syndrome in humans has not been established. For this reason, the criterion of withdrawal does not apply when diagnosing PCP addiction.

PCP addiction is diagnosed according to the number of criteria present as mild (2 to 3), moderate (4 to 5), or severe (6 or more). With the right combination of therapies, phencyclidine use disorder is treatable.

PCP Addiction Treatment

Although detoxification is usually the first step in addressing substance use disorders, there are no dedicated detox protocols or medications specifically designed for PCP use disorder. In cases where individuals are admitted to treatment facilities under the influence of PCP, management strategies may be required to address agitation and potential for violent behaviors. This may include the use of sedatives like benzodiazepines to promote safety and calmness in the person under the influence of phencyclidine.

Once the person is stabilized, the most effective treatment involves a comprehensive approach that includes a personalized blend of behavioral therapies, motivational therapies, and psychosocial support mechanisms. The effectiveness of treatment significantly improves when each aspect of the treatment plan — including the chosen interventions, supportive services, and treatment setting — is customized to reflect the unique needs and circumstances of the individual.

FAQs

Can you get addicted to PCP?

Yes, it is possible to become addicted to PCP. Regular use can lead to psychological dependence, cravings, and compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.

How addictive is PCP?

PCP can be highly addictive. Its addictive potential varies from person to person contingent on variables like frequency of use, dosage, and personal susceptibility. Many people who use PCP regularly develop psychological dependence.

What do I do if I’m addicted to PCP?

If you’re addicted to PCP, seek professional help. This may involve contacting a healthcare provider for detoxification and ongoing treatment, joining a support group, and engaging with therapy to address the addiction and underpinning issues contributing to PCP use.

What is PCP addiction treatment like?

PCP drug addiction treatment involves supervised medical detox, behavioral therapies, counseling, and support groups to manage withdrawal symptoms and treat the psychological side of PCP addiction. Treatment should be targeted and personalized.

Does insurance cover PCP addiction treatment?

Coverage for PCP addiction treatment depends on the insurance policy. Most health insurance plans offer some level of coverage for addiction treatment, but the extent and type of coverage can differ widely.

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Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

PCP is a dangerous drug, but PCP addiction is treatable. We can help you with this at Renaissance Recovery in Southern California.

Commit to recovery at our beachside facility in Huntington Beach, CA, and set the foundation for long-term sober living. The outpatient nature of our programs allows you to connect with the care you need while still meeting your everyday commitments.

During PCP addiction treatment at Renaissance, you can engage with a personalized blend of the following therapies:

Call 866.330.9449 today and begin your recovery from PCP addiction tomorrow.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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