Also known as

PCP, peace pills, hog, angel dust, angel dust, amoeba, amp. Belladonna, animal trank, zoom, boat, sherm sticks, super grass, stp, embalming fluid




Phencyclidine was developed as an anaesthetic - a drug used in an operation and other procedures to temporally stop a patient from feeling pain. Doctors stopped using it because it can cause hallucinations, make you feel really confused, and affect your mood [1].

Phencyclidine can -

  • Make you feel numb and like they are not part of reality.
  • Cause changes to the way you see things. This might include seeing things that aren't really there (hallucinations) and changes in how you experience time.
  • Change you're mood in ways you don't expect. It might make you feel really happy and upbeat but can also cause you to feel very down, panicky and paranoid. You may believe things that aren't true. Some people become more aggressive and violent.
  • When you take any drug you aren't always in control of your own actions. People who have taken Phencyclidine have died from the injuries they have caused themselves and from hyperthermia (getting very hot). Clotting problems with your blood, muscle breakdown and kidney failure have also been reported.
  • Combining an anaesthetic drug like Phencyclidine with depressant drugs like alcohol is also dangerous [1].

What does it look like?

Phencyclidine can be an oil, liquid, powder, crystal or pill. The colour depends on what form the Phencyclidine is in and how pure it is. Phencyclidine oil is yellow, pure Phencyclidine powder and crystals can range from white to light brown [1].

Phencyclidine is a white crystalline powder that is readily soluble in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter chemical taste [2].


This drug is well known in the USA but is rarely seen in Britain. It may be imported, probably from the USA or diverted from domestic veterinary supplies [3].


According to the 2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, an estimated 1.2 million people aged 12 and older (0.4% of the US population) were current users of hallucinogens, with PCP having the lowest rate of use.

Based on Emergency Department data, the majority of those seeking PCP-related treatment are males 25--34 years of age [4].

According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the number of past year initiates of PCP aged 12 or older decreased from 123,000 in 2002 to 45,000 in 2009 and 2010. PCP is grouped into the hallucinogens group in the NSDUH, which also include LSD, peyote, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, and "Ecstasy" (MDMA). In the survey, hallucinogens were used in the past month by 1.2 million persons (0.5%) aged 12 or older in 2010, including the 45,000 who had used PCP. These hallucinogen estimates were similar to estimates in 2009.

Since 1975, Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) researchers have annually surveyed almost 17,000 high school seniors nationwide to determine trends in drug use and to measure attitudes and beliefs about drug abuse. The 2010 Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) shows that use of PCP by high school seniors has increased 0.1% since 2001, from 1.7% to 1.8%. In 2010, however, 1.0% of seniors used PCP at least once in the past year, which held steady from 2009. Past month use among seniors increased from 0.5% in 2009 to 0.8% in 2010. The percentage of high school seniors saying it would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get PCP in 2010 was 8%, compared to 16% when asked the same question in 2000 [5].

Why take it?

Sought after effects

Undesired effects

  • decreased sensitivity to pain,
  • drowsiness,
  • dizziness,
  • numbness,
  • loss of coordination,
  • confusion,
  • hallucinations,
  • dissociation ('out-of-the-body' feelings) [3].


  • genetic - those who have a first-degree relative who abuses drugs are more likely to abuse drugs than others without a similar family history. While there is only limited research related to hallucinogens, there is some support suggesting that those with a first-degree relative who used hallucinogens is at greater risk for abusing hallucinogens.
  • brain chemistry - Phencyclidine, like all drugs of addiction, affects the brain's reward center. Under normal circumstances the brain responds to situations that are pleasurable by releasing the dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for communication within the brain. Phencyclidine among other drugs, interferes with the communication process, causing the neurons in the brain to flood the brain with dopamine. The increased amount and length of dopamine flooding is what causes the high associated with taking Phencyclidine.
  • brain chemical imbalances - sometimes individuals have certain chemical imbalances with the brain. Some individuals have chemical imbalances that lead to lower levels of pleasure or increased negative mood states. When individuals come into contact with a substance that improves these states and creates pleasure it is very difficult to decide to return to the former state.
  • environmental - while it is clear that there is a genetic predisposition to developing drug-related disorders including Phencyclidine abuse, this does not mean that everyone with the predisposition will develop such a disorder. Research shows that life stressors and other environmental influences account for about 50% of the risk that someone with such a predisposition will go on to develop the disorder [6].

How long do its effects last?

Onset of effects

  • oral - 30 - 90 minutes,
  • insufflated - 3 - 30 minutes,
  • smoked - 2 - 20 minutes [7],
  • all ROAs - 2 - 20 minutes [8].

Come up

  • oral - 40 - 120 minutes,
  • insufflated - 30 - 90 minutes,
  • smoked - 20 - 40 minutes [7].


  • oral - 2 - 3 hours,
  • insufflated - 2 - 3 hours,
  • smoked - 2 - 3 hours [7].


  • oral - 1 - 2 hours,
  • insufflated - 1 - 2 hours,
  • smoked - 1 - 2 hours [7].

Duration of effects

  • oral - 4 - 8 hours,
  • insufflated - 4 - 6 hours,
  • smoked - 4 - 6 hours [7].
  • all ROAs - 4 - 6 hours [8].


  • oral - 4 - 48 hours,
  • insufflated - 4 - 48 hours,
  • smoked - 4 - 48 hours [7],
  • all ROAs - 12 - 24 hours [8].


Phencyclidine is principally thought to act as an NMDA receptor antagonist. NMDA receptors allow for electrical signals to pass between neurons in the brain and spinal column; for the signals to pass, the receptor must be open. Dissociatives close the NMDA receptors by blocking them. This disconnection of neurons leads to loss of feeling, difficulty moving, and eventually an almost identical equivalent of the notorious 'k-hole'.

Phencyclidine also acts as a dopamine-reuptake inhibitor and a serotonin reuptake inhibitor with alleged µ-opioid affinity and typical dissociative effects which vary depending on dose. This provides an explanation for its manic, euphoric and often stimulating properties [7].


  • full tolerance is reached with prolonged and repeated use,
  • decreases to half after 3 - 7 days,
  • returns to baseline after 1 - 2 weeks,
  • cross-tolerance with all dissociatives [7].

Mode of use

Phencyclidine can be sniffed, swallowed or injected.

Phencyclidine can also be smoked if it is sprayed onto something that you can smoke, like tobacco, or because a cigarette has been dipped into liquid Phencyclidine (this method is sometimes referred to as 'embalming fluid').

No method makes using Phencyclidine safe, but injecting, and sharing the equipment used for injecting, is particularly risky. You might overdose or catch a virus such as HIV or hepatitis C. There is also the risk that veins may be damaged and that an abscess or blood clot may develop [1].

Phencyclidine turns up on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablets, capsules and coloured powders. Phencyclidine can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed and is most commonly sold as a powder or liquid and applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, tobacco, or marijuana when used for smoking [2].

Tablets can be taken orally, powder can be snorted up the nose, sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked, or injected. Or a cigarette or joint can be dipped in to liquid Phencyclidine then smoked [3].

PCP can be an oil, liquid, powder, crystal or pill. The colour depends on what form the PCP is in and how pure it is. PCP oil is yellow, pure PCP powder and crystals can range from white to light brown [9].

Signs of usage

Users continue the use of Phencyclidine despite the knowledge of the severe adverse consequences it has on their health and other areas of their life, and the lives of those closest to them. A person addicted to Phencyclidine may exhibit the following signs -

  • loss of interest in usual activities,
  • trouble in personal relationships,
  • difficulties at work or school,
  • financial problems,
  • legal problems,
  • poor hygiene,
  • health issues,
  • unable to stop the use of Phencyclidine without experiencing symptoms of withdrawal [10].


Phencyclidine is an anaesthetic and painkiller, which means that it can produce dreamlike and 'floaty' or numb feelings. It has a number of other effects -

  • Phencyclidine can change how you see reality. You can have hallucinations and the way you experience time may also change; time may speed up or slow down.
  • It can change your mood and the way you feel in ways you don't expect. It might make you feel really happy and upbeat but can also cause you to feel very down, panicky and paranoid. You may believe things that aren't true. Some people become more aggressive and violent.
  • Taking Phencyclidine can lead to a severe psychotic state which is a mental condition that stops you from thinking clearly, telling the difference between reality and your imagination, and acting in a normal way. These states are temporary [1].

Low to moderate amounts (1 - 5 mg), PCP users experience -

  • feelings of detachment,
  • slurred speech,
  • numbness,
  • loss of coordination, coupled with a sense of strength and invulnerability [11].

In higher doses, PCP produces -

  • hallucinations,
  • catatonic posturing [11].

Short-term effects

Physical effects

These effects may also vary in intensity with the dose [12].

  • impaired motor skills,
  • blurred vision and constricted pupils,
  • dizziness,
  • painful reaction to sound,
  • blank staring,
  • speech disturbances, ranging from difficulty articulating to incoherent speech or inability to speak,
  • muscular rigidity,
  • decreased sensitivity and awareness of pain, touch, and position,
  • stupor or coma,
  • irregular heartbeat,
  • alternately abnormally low and abnormally high blood pressure,
  • slow, shallow, and irregular breathing,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • salivation,
  • increased body temperature and sweating alternating with chills and shivering,
  • very high doses may result in an overdose and lead to coma, convulsions, or death [12].

Psychological effects

  • mild to intense euphoria,
  • relaxation or drowsiness,
  • feelings of unreality and dissociation with the environment,
  • distorted sense of ones body, including a feeling of weightlessness,
  • distorted sense of time and space,
  • visual and auditory hallucinations and other sensory distortions,
  • difficulty concentrating and thinking,
  • anxiety,
  • agitation,
  • paranoid thoughts,
  • confusion and disorientation,
  • intense feelings of alienation,
  • depression,
  • bizarre or hostile behaviour,
  • obsession with trivial matters,
  • grandiose delusions,
  • panic,
  • terror,
  • overwhelming fear of imminent death [12].

Long-term effects

  • 'runs' - Chronic users may binge use Phencyclidine, taking it repeatedly for 2 or 3 days at a time without eating or sleeping, followed by a period of sleep. These runs may occur as many as four times in a month,
  • impaired memory,
  • flashbacks - similar to those experienced by chronic LSD users,
  • persistent speech problems - such as stuttering, inability to articulate, or the inability to speak at all,
  • chronic and severe anxiety and depression - possibly leading to suicide attempts,
  • social withdrawal and isolation,
  • toxic psychosis - may appear in chronic users who do not have a prior history of psychiatric disturbances. The symptoms of toxic psychosis are aggressive or hostile behaviour, paranoia, delusional thinking and auditory hallucinations [12].

Physical effects

Cognitive effects

Visual effects



Hallucinatory states

Auditory effects

  • auditory distortion,
  • auditory hallucinations,
  • auditory suppression [7].

Positive effects

  • increase in energy,
  • euphoria,
  • pleasant mental and/or body high,
  • disconnected thoughts,
  • sense of calm,
  • increased sociability, loss of inhibitions,
  • closed- and open-eye visuals,
  • shifts in perception of reality,
  • improvement in charisma,
  • can improve depression [13].

Neutral effect

  • increased salivation,
  • change in body temperature regulation, sweating,
  • increased heart rate (lower doses),
  • altered time perception,
  • disrupted speech patterns,
  • analgesia and numbness,
  • feelings of invulnerability,
  • distorted sensory perceptions, hallucinations,
  • unusual and unpredictable behaviour,
  • mild to moderate dissociation (common),
  • confusion, disorientation (common),
  • nystagmus [13].

Negative effects

  • disturbing hallucinations and/or delusions,
  • severe anxiety, paranoia,
  • severe dissociation, depersonalisation,
  • ataxia,
  • severe confusion, disorganized thinking,
  • psychotic episodes,
  • physical aggression,
  • nausea, vomiting,
  • temporary amnesia,
  • severe distortion or loss of auditory/visual perception,
  • decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration (high doses),
  • seizures (high doses),
  • hangover including dizziness, numbness and lethargy; may last 24 hours or more,
  • coma (high doses, increased risk when combined with depressants),
  • possible neurotoxicity (controversial),
  • increase in body temperature, leading to dehydration and users to remove clothes,
  • potential for violence or unpredictable behaviour [13].


Phencyclidine is an anaesthetic and was designed to stop people feeling pain during operations. But it can a loss of coordination and control. It can also -

  • increase your body temperature,
  • make you feel detached from reality,
  • cause convulsions,
  • lead to a severe psychotic state which is a mental condition that stops you from thinking clearly, telling the difference between reality and your imagination, and acting in a normal way. These states are temporary,
  • lead you to to hurt yourselves; some users have been known to cut themselves or commit suicide. Some, who are violent towards others, may do more harm because they feel less pain,
  • and because it's a painkiller you can't tell as easily when you're hurt and you may not get medical help when you need it,
  • injecting Phencyclidine can damage your veins and can cause serious problems such as abscesses and blood clots. Sharing injecting equipment, including needles and syringes, risks infection with hepatitis C and B viruses and HIV,
  • it can cause your breathing to become shallow and slow or even stop your lungs from working if you take a lot,
  • it can cause anxiety and agitation,
  • it can cause death if a lot is taken and this results in hyperthermia, convulsions and respiratory depression,
  • using Phencyclidine and alcohol together can increase the loss of coordination/control and make your breathing even more shallow and slow [1].

Long term use of Phencyclidine has been reported to cause memory and cognitive problems, poor appetite and weight loss, depression, and a prolonged paranoid state of mind [1].


  • unpredictable behaviour,
  • accidents,
  • overdose,
  • collapse,
  • convulsions [3].


  • speech problems,
  • memory loss,
  • psychotic state resembling schizophrenic episodes [3].


As with any drug you can never be sure what you are taking and how you will react to it. In the past Phencyclidine has been found to be 'cut' or mixed with other substances, like un-reacted chemicals and cocaine and ecstasy [1].


Can you get addicted

Yes, you can become addicted to Phencyclidine. This means that regular users feel the need to keep taking Phencyclidine, in spite of the risks.

Regular users can also develop tolerance to Phencyclidine, which means they need to take increasing amounts to get the same effects [1].

Dangerous interactions

Although many drugs are safe on their own, they can become dangerous and even life-threatening when combined with other substances. The list below contains some common potentially dangerous combinations, but may not include all of them. Certain combinations may be safe in low doses of each but still increase the potential risk of death. Independent research should always be done to ensure that a combination of two or more substances is safe before consumption [7].

  • Psychedelics - This combination is not advised because Phencyclidine has been reported to cause extreme psychological disturbances such as psychosis and mania at a significantly higher rate than other dissociatives [14], [15].
  • Stimulants - This combination is not advised due to the risk of psychosis or mania [14], [15].
  • Depressants - This combination potentiates the muscle relaxation, sedation and amnesia caused by one another and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness at high doses. There is also an increased risk of vomiting during unconsciousness and death from the resulting suffocation. If this occurs, users should attempt to fall asleep in the recovery position or have a friend move them into it. Examples include 1,4-butanediol, 2-methyl-2-butanol, benzodiazepines, GHB, GBL, and opioids [7].


Withdrawal from Phencyclidine is a very dangerous process that should only be performed under the careful supervision of trained medical professionals [6]. Withdrawal symptoms of Phencyclidine include the following -

  • decreased reflexes,
  • weight loss,
  • memory loss,
  • confusion,
  • anxiety,
  • speech difficulties,
  • depression,
  • lack of impulse control,
  • coma,
  • suicide,
  • death [6].

Drug testing

Phencyclidine is detectable in the system of the user for up to 3 months, depending on the type of test being administered, the frequency and amount of use, and the physical traits of the user. Physical traits can be body fat content, weight and height of the user, age of the user, physical condition of the user, body hydration, and other similar health components of the user [16].

Types of drug tests for Phencyclidine

Phencyclidine can be detected with a urine test for 1 - 7 days when used on a limited basis or after a single use at a low dose. For those who use it frequently at higher doses, detection with a urine test may be possible for up to 4 weeks. Urine tests screen for Phencyclidine and its metabolised by-products.

  • a blood sample that is tested for presence of Phencyclidine may be viable for 24 hours.
  • saliva testing may indicate use of Phencyclidine for 1 - 10 days.
  • hair follicle samples may test positive for Phencyclidine for up to 3 months, which is common for most drug use with this type of test [16].

PCP drug tests timetable

The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which PCP can be detected by various testing methods -

  • urine test - 1 - 7 days, heavy 1 - 4 weeks,
  • blood test - 24 hours,
  • saliva test - 1 - 10 days [17].

PCP, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days [17].


Phencyclidine is a Class A drug, which means that it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell. Possession can get you up to seven years in jail. Supplying someone else, including giving it to your friends, can get you life and an unlimited fine [1].

What if you're caught?

If the Police catch you with Phencyclidine, they'll always take some action. This could include a formal caution, arrest and prosecution. A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries - for example the United States - and limit the types of jobs you can apply for [1].

Did you know?

  • Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal - and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using Phencyclidine. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.
  • Allowing other people to supply drugs in your house or any other premises is illegal. If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a club they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any person concerned in the management of the premises [1].

Mixing with other drugs

Mixing PCP with other drugs is very high-risk behavior. Due to the unpredictable nature of PCP side-effects, many risks that do not exist with other drugs of abuse become more prevalent with PCP.

  • alcohol - Sedative narcotics such as PCP raise the risk of overdose in combination with use of other sedative medications, including alcohol. Because the risk for hallucinations and delusional thinking and behavior is so high with PCP use, alcohol can increase the likelihood of reduced inhibitory markers, allowing the user to increase risky behaviors and suicidal ideation.
  • antidepressants - The effects on the brain of both PCP and antidepressant medications are very similar. While this is an established effect with use of antidepressants for prescribed users, introduction of PCP along with these medications is likely to increase the effects in dangerous ways. The mechanisms of operation for both types of medication have been recognized to be effective in creating a distancing, detached state that may become seriously implicated for suicidal ideation and attempts, especially in the under 18 year old brain.
  • anti-psychotics - When combined with antipsychotics, PCP symptoms may be reduced. This is good information for those who seek to treat the long-term or permanent damage done by PCP usage. However, there are only a few of these drugs that effectively offset the chemical reaction of PCP in the brain. The research is ongoing to discover the inhibitory aspects of anti-psychotic medications on the receptor sites damaged through PCP use [18]

There is little or no evidence that use of PCP by those who are taking anti-psychotic medications would be more or less likely to experience psychotic responses to the use of PCP. Because of the nature of the mental illness being treated by anti-psychotic medication, PCP may increase the risk of psychotic experiences for this population. The confounding factor of hallucinations and/or delusions is hard to determine causally.

Other risks with sedative mixers and PCP is that of the depressed state of the central nervous system, which is not incrementally affected by use of these two in combination, but synergistically affected, creating a much higher risk than that of just each component. The effects are dangerously multiplied with this combination, which also includes risk of overdose and cessation of breathing functions, heart stoppage and death [18]

  • benzodiazepines - Users combining PCP with benzodiazepine medications are running the same risks as that of drinking alcohol with PCP use. The increased risk of overdose is higher than with other combinations of drugs. Most often, death from PCP use is caused by suicide, rather than overdose. This risk is increased by use of PCP with benzodiazepines.
  • Heroin - The dangers of using PCP with heroin and other Central Nervous System depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and even marijuana are similar. All side-effects are increased, and cessation of breath and heart function are intensified tremendously with use of these combined medications.
  • marijuana - Use of marijuana while on PCP is frequent, because many users put liquid PCP on pot and smoke it. Again, the risk is that of the depressed state of the central nervous system. Due to the hallucinogenic and delusions created with PCP use, risk with marijuana is that of increased occurrence of paranoia and psychosis that may become permanent [18]

The dangers of antidepressants on this population are well-known and documented. Increased risks are likely to be present with the addition of PCP to the mix. Detachment of both behaviors and emotional responses seen with PCP would most often be seen as loss of control of rational thinking and delusions that would lead to high-risk behaviors and lack of understanding of consequences/outcomes of such behaviour. Also irrational and psychotic behaviors may be more pronounced with this combination of drugs [18]


  • 2C-T-x,
  • αMT,
  • 5-MeO-xxT,
  • DXM,
  • GHB/GBL - Details of this combination are not well understood but PCP generally interacts in an unpredictable manner,
  • Tramadol,
  • MAOIs - This combination is very poorly explored [8].


  • DOx - Details of this combination are not well understood but PCP generally interacts in an unpredictable manner,
  • Amphetamines - This combination can easily lead to hypermanic states,
  • MDMA - This combination can easily lead to hypermanic states,
  • Cocaine - This combination can easily lead to hypermanic states,
  • Alcohol - Details of this combination are not well understood but PCP generally interacts in an unpredictable manner,
  • Benzodiazepines - Both substances potentiate the ataxia and sedation caused by the other and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness at high doses. While unconscious, vomit aspiration is a risk if not placed in the recovery position. Memory blackouts are likely,
  • SSRIs - Details of this combination are not well understood but PCP generally interacts in an unpredictable manner [8].

Harm reduction

  • if you think you are overdosing on PCP, please seek emergency medical attention immediately. At Accident & Emergency, doctors usually provide 1mg Lorazepam (benzodiazepine) and 1 - 10mg Haloperidol (anti-psychotic) to combat PCP overdoses and violent or unpredictable behaviour,
  • do not drive or operate heavy machinery,
  • avoid walking or moving in general if possible,
  • always experiment with drugs with a sober friend in a safe place. start low, increase until desired effect,
  • a full stomach may lead to nausea; consider fasting 3 - 4+ hours before usage [13].


If snorted

Razor blade, hard level surface (such as a mirror or glass), tube or rolled banknote [3].

If smoked

Cigarette papers, tobacco or marijuana [3].

If injected

Syringe and needle, water, spoon, tourniquet [3].


First synthesised in 1926, Phencyclidine was developed by Parke, Davis and Company under the trade name Sernyl for use as a general anaesthetic for humans in the 1950's [19], and subsequently was used in veterinary medicine as a tranquillizer [20]. By 1965, use with humans was discontinued as clinical studies revealed that patients experienced delusions, severe anxiety and agitation when emerging from the drug's effects [21], [20]. Today, use even in the veterinary community is rare, though small amounts continue to be manufactured for research purposes [20].

Manufactured in clandestine laboratories, Phencyclidine emerged as a substance of abuse in the mid-1960's. It often appeared in pill form and was known as 'The PeaCe Pill', a term that contributed to the acronym Phencyclidine [20]. It's use spread in the 1970's and peaked around 1978 as snorting or smoking (giving users a more immediate high) the powder form of Phencyclidine became more popular [22].


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