Phencyclidine (PCP) is a dissociative drug formerly used as an anaesthetic that creates both hallucinogenic and neurotoxic effects. It is a member of the family of dissoaciative anesthetics and is significantly more dangerous than other categories of hallucinogens. It is classified as a Schedule II substance in the U.S.
Although the primary psychoactive effects of PCP lasts for just a few hours, the total elimination rate from the body typically extends 8 days or longer.
PCP was initially used as a surgical and veterinary anesthetic but due to adverse side effects of hallucinations, mania, delirium and disorientation, and also due to its long half-life in the human body, the drug is considered unsuitable for medical applications.
PCP comes in both powder and liquid forms. PCP base powder is usually dissolved in either. It is often sprayed onto leafy material such as cannabis, mint, oregano, parsley or ginger leaves, and then smoked.
Behavioral effects vary with dosage. Small doses produce intoxication and numbness in the extremities, characterized by unsteady gait, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and loss of balance. Moderate doses will produce analgesia and anesthesia. High doses may cause convulsions.
Psychological effects include severe changes in body image, loss of ego boundaries, and depersonalization. Hallucinations and eurphoria are reported infrequently. The drug has been known to alter mood states in an unpredictable fashion, causing some individuals to become detached, and others to become animated.
Intoxicated individuals may act in a highly unpredictable fashion, possibly driven by their delusions and hallucinations.
PCP induced behavior has included physical attacks on others, destruction of property, self-harming, and suicide. Some researchers believe that the analgesic properties of the drug can cause users to feel less pain, and that they can then persist in violent or injurious acts.
Large recreational doses of the drug can induce a psychotic state that resembles schizophrenic episodes, and which can last for months at a time.
Medical and law enforcement personnel remember the symptoms of PCP intoxication by using the mneumonic device RED DANES, which stands for: rage, erythema (skin redness), dilated pubils, delusions, amnesia, nystagmus (oscillation of the eyeball when moving laterally), excitation and skin dryness.
Management of PCP intoxication mostly consists of physically supportive care such as controlling breathing, circulation, and body temperature, followed by treatment of the psychiatric symptoms. Benzodiazepines, are used to control agitation and seizures when present. Antipsycholtics have been used to control psychotic symptoms. Ongoing psycho-social treatment is often recommended for long-term users who show signs of dependence.