PCP Facts & Statistics
In This Article
Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, brings numerous physical and mental health problems among its users. In severe cases, it even causes death or permanent disability.
Understanding this substance is vital, especially if you or someone you know could be using it.
Here are some critical PCP facts and statistics to help you understand the risks.
Quick Statistics About PCP
Prevalence of PCP drug use
- PCP has a national reach, with an estimated 6 million U.S. residents aged 12+ experimenting with it at least once.1
- Over 225,000 teens aged 12 to 17 and 777,000 young adults between 18 to 25 have tried the drug at least once.1
- More than 25% of DUI tests yield a positive for PCP in Washington, D.C.2
- PCP is detected in over 33% of drug-positive arrests in Washington, D.C., more than twice the proportion of arrests associated with opioids. This makes the city the capital of PCP use among arrestees.2
- Baltimore, a mere 40 miles away from the bustling city of Washington, D.C., seems to have avoided the prevalence of the drug.2
The most common age group for users
The use of PCP among high school students remains a pressing issue. Most seniors, exceeding 3%, admit to trying the drug at least once in their lifetime. Over 1% of students have also used the drug within the past year.1
In 2019 alone, there were 327 mentions of PCP use and 130 cases of single consumption, tragically resulting in one death.4 2020 saw an even more troubling rise, with 546 case mentions and 212 individual exposure incidents, resulting in two fatalities.4
There's an uptick in PCP drug use among Americans aged 12+. While 30,000 admitted to trying the drug in 2019, that number has since surged to 52,000 in 2020.4
Statistics related to PCP consumption
- Often smoked through $20 "dippers," PCP appears more frequently than cocaine in criminal case hearings in Washington D.C.2
- Roughly 25% of those seeking medical attention in Prince George’s Hospital Center in Maryland test positive for PCP.2
- PCP accounted for 14% of all drug-related fatalities in D.C. in 2018.2
- 24% of street marijuana samples contain the drug.3
- A "dipper" or a PCP-dipped cigarette or marijuana joint sells between $10 and $20.4
- PCP costs $200 to $300 per liquid ounce, $20 to $30 per gram of powder, and $5$ to 15 per tablet.4
- PCP reports from forensic labs across the U.S. decreased in the past few years, from 4,019 cases in 2019 to 3,486 reports in 2020 and further down to 3,070 in 2021.4
Risks and Dangers of PCP Use
Overdose symptoms and treatment
From wild hallucinations to dangerous spikes in heart rate, an overdose mimics the effects of an overload of amphetamines, cocaine, and even anticholinergic agents. Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines also share similarities:
- Extreme agitation
- Respiratory depression
- Liver failure
Seek help immediately if you think you or someone else may have overdosed on PCP. Call 911, your local poison control center, or emergency medical services.
If the person is conscious, provide reassurance and comfort to reduce anxiety. Monitor the person's vital signs, such as pulse rate and breathing.
But if they're under PCP-induced psychosis, supportive care, and hospitalization may be necessary. Antipsychotics might also be required to manage the symptoms.
Potential for addiction and physical dependence
PCP is highly addictive and can cause physical dependence with prolonged use. It can also cause compulsive drug-seeking behavior in some users.
People using the drug for prolonged periods often exhibit withdrawal symptoms. These include anxiety, nausea, headaches, cravings, weight loss, paranoia, and an increased risk of suicide.
Additionally, some users may experience persistent psychotic episodes and flashbacks even after stopping the drug.
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The Effects of PCP on the Brain and Body
Short-term Effects of PCP
PCP affects the body and mind in various ways, from calming sedation to immobility. It also produces amnesia and a remarkable pain-relieving effect.
The buzz from smoking PCP can set in as soon as 2 to 5 minutes after use; ingesting it can take 30 to 60 minutes to feel its effects. But some users report lingering effects of PCP that can stick around for two days after the initial 4 to 8-hour experience.4
1 to 5 mg or low to moderate doses of PCP can cause:
- Slurred speech
- Blank gaze
- Detachment from self and environment
- Rapid eye movements
- Loss of coordination
- Catatonic posturing reminiscent of Schizophrenia
- Sense of invincibility
Physical effects of PCP include heightened body temperature, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations in high doses, high blood pressure, and heart palpitation.
Long-term Effects of PCP
Repeated PCP drug abuse can lead to:
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Intellectual impairment
- Memory loss
Long-term users can also suffer from life-threatening conditions, such as weight loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and isolation.
How does PCP affect mental health and behavior?
The drug severely impairs cognitive and motor skills. Such drug use can also cause violent and compulsive behavior. PCP’s effects are unpredictable and vary depending on the amount taken, frequency of use, and individual physiology.
Those under its influence may act irrationally and impulsively without regard for their safety or that of others. It also triggers extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions, which can be dangerous in high doses.
Users of PCP may also experience varying levels of depression. As mentioned, these severe psychological effects can last long after the high wears off.
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Understanding PCP: Basics and History
What is PCP and its origin?
PCP—short for phencyclidine—was developed in 1956 as an intravenous anesthetic. It's a highly soluble white powder that falls under the hallucinogen umbrella.
This dissociative drug is infamous for causing sight and sound distortion and a feeling of detachment in users. As its adverse side effects (postoperative delirium with hallucinations) became apparent, it was removed from the American market in 1965 for human use. Moreover, PCP's ban as an animal tranquilizer has been in effect since 1978.
It's strictly off-limits in the United States today. However, you can still find PCP on the streets in various forms, posing a danger to those consuming it.
Street names and slang terms for PCP
This hallucinogen goes by different street names, including:
- Embalming Fluid
- Angel Dust
- Rocket Fuel
If combined with marijuana, it's known as:
- Killer Joints
- Super Grass
Methods of Intake and Appearance
How is PCP used and consumed?
PCP users take this drug by swallowing, smoking, or snorting. However, smoking is the most popular method of use.
People can soak other ingredients or substances in PCP and roll them into cigarettes to achieve the desired high.4 These ingredients or substances include:
A small amount of PCP can go a long way, with doses averaging 5 to 10 milligrams.
What does PCP look like?
PCP comes in various forms, including:
Sometimes, unsuspecting party-goers purchasing what they think is MDMA (Ecstasy) discover it's also laced with PCP.
PCP and the risk of psychosis
The drug is classified as a hallucinogen, meaning it can trigger episodes of psychosis. This is precisely why it had to be removed from the market in 1965.
PCP can also cause schizophrenia-like symptoms characterized by delirium, paranoia, and delusions. It is also linked to violent behavior, possibly due to its tendency to increase aggression and hostility.
The risk of psychosis is exceptionally high if the user has a prior history of mental illness. Additionally, mixing PCP with other drugs can amplify the risk further.
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Treatment Options for PCP Addiction
Identifying PCP addiction and its symptoms
Addiction to the substance looks similar to other substance use disorders. Heavy users display signs of tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and craving.
They also suffer from physical and severe psychological dependence on the substance that can lead to legal, financial, occupational, and relationship problems.
Substance abuse treatment programs for PCP
The first step of treatment is detoxification, which helps users cope with the withdrawal symptoms experienced upon quitting. Those dependent on PCP can do this through residential care, inpatient treatment programs, partial hospitalization, or outpatient services.
Behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI) are also beneficial for those struggling with PCP addiction.
These therapies focus on helping individuals identify the underlying patterns that lead to their substance use. Mental health services also develop strategies for future prevention.
Legal Status and Enforcement of PCP
Legal penalties for PCP possession, distribution, and use
Breaking the law with a Schedule II substance can lead to severe consequences. Those convicted on federal charges could face up to a year behind bars and a hefty fine ranging from $1,000 to $100,000.
Getting caught the second time could mean a minimum 15-day sentence and a fine totaling at least $2,500. For the third, you could face up to three years in prison and the minimum fine skyrocketing to $5,000.5
|10 to 99 grams||Imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than more, and a fine of up to $2 million.|
|100 grams or more||Imprisonment of not less than ten years but not more than more, and a fine of up to $4 million.|
Role of national and international organizations in controlling PCP
The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is the main body responsible for monitoring the production, trade, and use of PCP worldwide.
This organization collaborates with governments and national and international agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), to monitor the substance's production, distribution, and use.
The INCB also develops strategies to reduce the demand for PCP by educating people on its dangers and advocating for stricter legal penalties.
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- U.S. Department of Justice. “PCP Fast Facts.” National Drugs and Intelligence Center, n.d.
- Cebulla, A. “Why America Is the Only Place in the World Where People Use PCP.” Addiction & Recovery, 2021.
- Bey, T., & Patel, A. “Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug.” The California Journal Of Emergency Medicine, 2007.
- U.S. Department of Justice. “PHENCYCLIDINE.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2022.
- Boston University. “State and Federal Laws and Sanctions Concerning Drugs and Alcohol.” n.d.