PCP (phencyclidine) was developed in the 1950s as an
intravenous anesthetic. Use of PCP in
humans was discontinued in 1965, because it was found that patients
often became agitated,
delusional, and irrational while recovering from its anesthetic
effects. PCP is illegally manufactured
in laboratories and is sold on the street by such names as
"angel dust," "ozone," "wack," and
"rocket fuel." "Killer joints"and "crystal
supergrass" are names that refer to PCP combined with
marijuana. The variety of street names for PCP reflects its bizarre
and volatile effects.
PCP is a white crystalline powder that is readily
soluble in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter
chemical taste. PCP can be mixed easily with dyes and turns up on
the illicit drug market in a
variety of tablets, capsules, and colored powders. It is normally
used in one of three ways: snorted,
smoked, or eaten. For smoking, PCP is often applied to a leafy
material such as mint, parsley,
oregano, or marijuana.
PCP is addicting; that is, its use often leads to
psychological dependence, craving, and compulsive
PCP-seeking behavior. It was first introduced as a street drug in
the 1960s and quickly gained a
reputation as a drug that could cause bad reactions and was not
worth the risk. Many people, after
using the drug once, will not knowingly use it again. Yet others
use it consistently and regularly.
Some persist in using PCP because of its addicting properties.
Others cite feelings of strength,
power, invulnerability and a numbing effect on the mind as reasons
for their continued PCP use.
Many PCP users are brought to emergency rooms because
of PCP's unpleasant psychological
effects or because of overdoses. In a hospital or detention
setting, they often become violent or
suicidal, and are very dangerous to themselves and to others. They
should be kept in a calm setting
and should not be left alone.
At low to moderate doses, physiological effects of PCP
include a slight increase in breathing rate
and a more pronounced rise in blood pressure and pulse rate.
Respiration becomes shallow, and
flushing and profuse sweating occur. Generalized numbness of the
extremities and muscular
incoordination also may occur. Psychological effects include
distinct changes in body awareness,
similar to those associated with alcohol intoxication. Use of PCP
among adolescents may interfere
with hormones related to normal growth and development as well as
with the learning process.
At high doses of PCP, there is a drop in blood
pressure, pulse rate, and respiration. This may be
accompanied by nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, flicking up and
down of the eyes, drooling, loss
of balance, and dizziness. High doses of PCP can also cause
seizures, coma, and death (though
death more often results from accidental injury or suicide during
PCP intoxication). Psychological
effects at high doses include illusions and hallucinations. PCP can
cause effects that mimic the full
range of symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions, paranoia,
disordered thinking, a sensation
of distance from one's environment, and catatonia. Speech is often
sparse and garbled.
People who use PCP for long periods report memory loss,
difficulties with speech and thinking,
depression, and weight loss. These symptoms can persist up to a
year after cessation of PCP use.
Mood disorders also have been reported. PCP has sedative effects,
and interactions with other
central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol and
benzodiazepines, can lead to coma or