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Angel Dust (PCP): Effects and Risks

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Angel dust, also known as PCP or phencyclidine, is a potent and dangerous drug that belongs to the hallucinogen class of psychoactive substances, specifically within the category of drugs called hallucinogens. Commonly sold in powder form or as a liquid, PCP can induce a range of effects, from sedative to hallucinogenic, depending on the dosage. However, its use is associated with a multitude of adverse effects, including psychological dependence, violent behavior, memory loss, and even accidental overdose. This article explores the dangers and effects of angel dust abuse, its pharmacological properties, withdrawal symptoms, and the clinical and legal issues surrounding its use, highlighting the broader context of drug abuse.

What Is Angel Dust (Phencyclidine PCP)?

Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, is a synthetic substance sought after for the intense high it provides, leading to a sensation of detachment from the body.

This manufactured drug has a bitter taste and typically presents as a white crystalline powder, available in various forms such as tablets, capsules, powder, or liquid. In some instances, the drug may be colored differently for identification.

Functioning as a combination of a stimulant, depressant, hallucinogen, and anesthetic simultaneously, PCP elicits complex effects on the user.

PCP Street Names

Phencyclidine (PCP), commonly known as “angel dust,” is a hallucinogenic dissociative anesthetic. It goes by several street names, often used colloquially to refer to the drug in various forms or contexts. Street names for PCP include:

  1. Angel Dust: A widely recognized and commonly used street name for PCP.

  2. Rocket Fuel: Refers to the drug’s dissociative and mind-altering effects.

  3. Embalming Fluid: A term sometimes used due to the drug’s association with a feeling of detachment from reality.

  4. Wet: Often used when PCP is applied to marijuana or tobacco and then smoked.

  5. Dust: A shortened version of “angel dust.”

  6. Ozone: Used to describe the drug’s chemical and synthetic nature.

  7. Sherm: A term commonly used when PCP is combined with a substance like marijuana and smoked.

  8. Hog: A term used to describe a person under the influence of PCP, suggesting unpredictable and potentially aggressive behavior.

  9. Lovely: Another term that may be used to describe the drug.

  10. Peace Pill: One of the street names for PCP, highlighting its mind-altering effects.

Uses and Efficacy of Angel Dust (PCP)

Uses of Angel Dust (PCP)

  1. Original Medical Use:

    • Anesthetic: Initially developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic for surgery. Its use was discontinued due to severe psychological side effects.

  2. Recreational Use:

    • Hallucinogen: PCP is illegally used as a recreational drug for its mind-altering effects, including hallucinations, euphoria, distorted perceptions of reality, and a feeling of detachment from the body.

    • Street Names: Commonly known as angel dust, hog, ozone, rocket fuel, and supergrass.

Efficacy of Angel Dust (PCP)

  1. Psychoactive Effects:

  • Short-Term: Users may experience hallucinations, euphoria, anxiety, agitation, and feelings of invulnerability or detachment from reality. These effects can begin within minutes of ingestion and last several hours.

  • Negative Effects: The drug’s effects include paranoia, aggression, confusion, delusions, and impaired motor function. High doses can cause severe symptoms like seizures, coma, or death.

  1. Addiction and Abuse:

  • Addictive Potential: PCP has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Regular use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Mental Health Impact: Chronic use can result in long-term cognitive impairment, memory loss, depression, and persistent psychosis.

  1. Health Risks:

  • Physical Risks: PCP’s effects include elevated blood pressure, heart rate abnormalities, respiratory issues, and damage to the central nervous system.

  • Behavioral Risks: Users may engage in risky or violent behavior due to impaired judgment and heightened aggression.

How Is PCP Used?

PCP (Phencyclidine) can be used in various forms, and the method of use depends on the user’s preference. Here are the common ways in which PCP is used:

  1. Oral Ingestion:

    • PCP can be taken orally in tablet or capsule form. Users swallow the drug, and it is absorbed through the digestive system.
  2. Snorting:

    • Some individuals may crush PCP into a powder and snort it through the nose. This method allows the drug to be absorbed through the nasal mucosa.
  3. Smoking:

    • PCP is often smoked, either alone or mixed with tobacco or cannabis. When smoked, it typically comes in the form of a crystal or powder.
  4. Injection:

    • In some cases, individuals may dissolve PCP in a liquid and inject it into their bloodstream using a needle. This is a less common method of use.

It’s important to note that PCP is a powerful and illegal substance with a high potential for harm. The method of use can influence the intensity and duration of its effects. Smoking or injecting PCP tends to result in a faster onset of effects compared to oral ingestion or snorting.

How Long Does PCP Stay in Your System?

The half-life of phencyclidine (PCP), a dissociative anesthetic and hallucinogenic drug, can vary among individuals and is influenced by factors such as metabolism and individual differences. The elimination half-life of PCP is approximately 7 to 47 hours.

This means that it takes approximately 7 to 47 hours for half of the administered dose of PCP to be eliminated from the body. It’s important to note that the range is relatively wide, reflecting the variability in how individuals metabolize and excrete the drug.

The effects of PCP, including its hallucinogenic and dissociative properties, can last for a shorter duration than the elimination half-life suggests. The acute effects of PCP typically peak within 30 minutes to 2 hours after use and may last for several hours. However, the drug’s metabolites can be detected in the body for a more extended period.

PCP Onset and Duration at High Doses

The onset and duration of effects of phencyclidine (PCP) can vary depending on the route of administration and individual factors. PCP is known for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects. Here are general estimates:

  1. Onset of Action:

    • Smoking: When smoked, the effects of PCP can onset rapidly, typically within a few minutes.
    • Oral Ingestion: When taken orally, the onset may be slower, usually within 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Duration of Action:

    • The duration of PCP’s effects can last several hours, generally ranging from 4 to 6 hours. However, it’s important to note that individual responses can vary, and the drug’s effects may be unpredictable.

How Long is PCP Detectable?

The detection window for phencyclidine (PCP) in various drug tests can vary based on factors such as the type of test, the frequency and amount of use, and individual factors like metabolism. Here are general estimates for how long PCP can be detected in different biological samples:

  1. Urine: PCP is typically detectable in urine for up to 3 to 7 days after use. In chronic users or heavy use, it may be detectable for a longer period.

  2. Blood: PCP is usually detectable in blood for a shorter duration compared to urine. It can be detected for up to 24 hours after use.

  3. Saliva: PCP can be detected in saliva for a similar duration as in blood, generally up to 24 hours.

  4. Hair: Hair follicle tests have a longer detection window, and PCP metabolites may be detectable for up to 90 days or even longer after use. However, hair tests are less commonly used for PCP compared to other drugs.

It’s important to note that these are general estimates, and individual variations can occur. Factors such as hydration, age, liver function, and the presence of other medications or substances can influence the elimination of PCP from the body.

How Does PCP Work in the Brain and Body?

Is PCP Illegal?

Yes, PCP (Phencyclidine) is illegal in many countries, including the United States. It is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S. This classification indicates that PCP has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States, and lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

Being in possession, manufacturing, distributing, or using PCP without a valid prescription is considered illegal and can lead to legal consequences. The sale and distribution of PCP are criminal offenses, and individuals caught with the drug may face charges related to drug possession or trafficking.

Side Effects and Risks of PCP

PCP (Phencyclidine) use can have various short-term and long-term side effects, and these effects can be unpredictable due to the drug’s hallucinogenic and dissociative properties. It’s important to note that the severity and manifestation of side effects can vary among individuals. Here are some short-term and long-term side effects associated with PCP use:

Short-Term Side Effects:

  1. Hallucinations: PCP is known for inducing intense and often disturbing hallucinations, which can affect visual, auditory, and sensory perceptions.

  2. Dissociation: Users may experience a sense of detachment from their surroundings, their body, and even reality.

  3. Distorted Thinking: PCP can lead to confusion, impaired judgment, and distorted thought processes.

  4. Agitation and Aggression: Some individuals may exhibit aggressive or violent behavior, becoming unpredictable and dangerous.

  5. Nystagmus: PCP use may cause rapid and involuntary eye movements.

  6. Nausea and Vomiting: Users may experience gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and vomiting.

  7. Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: PCP can lead to elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

  8. Interaction with Central Nervous System Depressants: Combining PCP with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, can lead to coma or accidental overdose.

Long-Term Side Effects:

  1. Psychological Effects: Prolonged use of PCP can contribute to persistent psychological effects, including anxiety, depression, and memory problems.

  2. Speech and Motor Impairment: Long-term use may result in speech difficulties and impaired motor coordination.

  3. Weight Loss: Chronic use of PCP may lead to appetite suppression and weight loss.

  4. Addiction: Some individuals may develop a psychological dependence on PCP, leading to compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

  5. Social and Occupational Impairment: PCP use can interfere with social relationships and occupational functioning.

  6. Memory and Cognitive Impairment: Long-term use may contribute to cognitive deficits and memory impairment.

  7. Risk of Accidents: PCP use increases the risk of accidents and injuries due to impaired judgment and coordination.

  8. Unpleasant Psychological Effects: PCP’s unpleasant psychological effects can lead to violent or suicidal behavior, making it dangerous for both the user and those around them.

Is PCP Addictive and Causes Psychological Dependence?

Yes, PCP (Phencyclidine) can be addictive, although the development of addiction may vary among individuals. PCP is known to have a potential for psychological dependence, where users may feel a compulsive need to continue using the drug despite experiencing negative consequences. The sedative effects of PCP, including its trance-like and dissociative anesthetic qualities, can also contribute to its addictive nature. Individuals addicted to PCP may exhibit compulsive PCP-seeking behavior, driven by intense cravings and psychological dependence.

The addictive nature of PCP is attributed to its impact on the brain’s reward system. The drug affects neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which play a crucial role in pleasure and reward. Regular use of PCP can lead to changes in the brain’s chemistry, reinforcing drug-seeking behavior.

Can You Overdose on PCP Intoxication?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on phencyclidine (PCP). PCP overdose can occur when an individual ingests or inhales a larger amount of the drug than their body can safely metabolize. PCP is a potent dissociative anesthetic and hallucinogen, and taking too much of the drug can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms. Even moderate doses of PCP can cause significant physiological and psychological effects, such as analgesia, anesthesia, and severe changes in body image.

Treatment Options for Angel Dust PCP Addiction

  1. Inpatient Rehabilitation:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation, also known as residential treatment, involves individuals residing within a treatment facility for a specified duration. This structured environment provides intensive care and support.

  1. Outpatient Programs:

  • Outpatient programs offer flexibility, allowing individuals to receive treatment while continuing their daily lives. They attend therapy sessions, counseling, and other interventions on a scheduled basis.

  1. Detoxification (Detox):

  • Detox is the initial phase of treatment, focusing on safely and systematically removing substances from the body. It is often conducted under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms. Detox programs often include medical supervision to manage symptoms of phencyclidine intoxication and ensure safe withdrawal from the drug.

  1. Therapy and Counseling:

  • Various therapeutic modalities, including individual counseling, group therapy, and family therapy, are crucial components of addiction and mental health treatment. These sessions help individuals explore and address underlying issues.

  1. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT):

  • MAT involves the use of medications, in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies, to address substance use disorders. It is particularly effective for opioid and alcohol addictions.

  1. Dual Diagnosis Treatment:

  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment addresses co-occurring mental health disorders alongside substance use disorders. It involves integrated interventions to holistically address both aspects of an individual’s well-being.

  1. Holistic Therapies:

  • Holistic approaches incorporate alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and mindfulness. These practices aim to promote overall well-being and support recovery.

  1. Support Groups:

  • Support groups, like those following the 12-step model (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous), provide a community for individuals to share experiences, seek guidance, and foster mutual support.

  1. Sober Living Homes:

  • Sober living homes offer a transitional and supportive environment for individuals in recovery. They provide a structured living arrangement to reinforce sobriety.

  1. Mental Health Treatment:

  • Mental health treatment specifically addresses psychiatric conditions. It may involve therapy, medication management, and other interventions to enhance emotional well-being.

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

  • CBT is a goal-oriented therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It is effective for both addiction and mental health concerns.

  1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):

  • DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts of acceptance and mindfulness. It is particularly beneficial for individuals with emotional dysregulation.

  1. Motivational Interviewing (MI):

  • MI is a client-centered counseling style aimed at eliciting behavior change by helping individuals explore and resolve ambivalence. It is effective in the early stages of recovery.

  1. Residential Treatment Centers:

  • Residential facilities provide immersive and structured treatment experiences for individuals requiring a more extended and intensive intervention.

  1. Community-Based Programs:

  • Programs within the community offer accessible and community-centered support for individuals with mental health concerns.

  1. Inpatient Mental Health Treatment:

  • Inpatient mental health treatment involves individuals residing within a treatment facility designed to provide a controlled and supportive environment for managing mental health conditions.

Understanding the diverse range of treatment options allows individuals to access the most suitable and effective interventions tailored to their unique needs. Seeking professional guidance is crucial to developing a personalized treatment plan.

Does Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment?

Yes, insurance typically covers treatment for addiction to angel dust (PCP), as it is classified under substance use disorder treatment. Most health insurance plans, including those provided by employers and private insurers, offer coverage for addiction treatment services, which can include detoxification, inpatient and outpatient rehab, therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. Coverage specifics, such as the extent of benefits, co-pays, and whether the treatment center is in-network, can vary. It is important to verify the details of your insurance plan with your provider to understand the exact coverage for angel dust addiction treatment.

Common Insurance Plans Used for Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Common types of insurance plans used for addiction and mental health treatment include:

  1. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO):

    • PPO plans offer flexibility in choosing healthcare providers, allowing individuals to visit both in-network and out-of-network providers without a referral. PPO plans typically cover a portion of the cost for addiction and mental health rehab services, but out-of-pocket expenses may be higher when using out-of-network providers.
  2. Health Maintenance Organization (HMO):

    • HMO plans require individuals to choose a primary care physician (PCP) who coordinates their care and provides referrals to specialists, including addiction and mental health treatment providers. HMO plans often have lower out-of-pocket costs but may limit coverage to in-network providers, except in emergencies.
  3. Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO):

    • EPO plans combine aspects of both PPO and HMO plans, offering a network of preferred providers for individuals to choose from. While EPO plans do not require a PCP or referrals for specialists, coverage is typically limited to in-network providers, except in emergencies.
  4. Point of Service (POS):

    • POS plans offer individuals the option to receive care from both in-network and out-of-network providers. However, using out-of-network providers may result in higher out-of-pocket costs, and individuals may need a referral from their PCP to see specialists, including addiction and mental health treatment providers.

These insurance plans may vary in terms of coverage, network providers, cost-sharing requirements (e.g., copayments, coinsurance, deductibles), and authorization requirements for addiction and mental health rehab services. It’s essential for individuals to review their insurance plan documents, understand their coverage details, and verify network providers before seeking treatment. Additionally, individuals may need to obtain preauthorization or prior approval for certain rehab services to ensure coverage and minimize out-of-pocket expenses.


In conclusion, angel dust, or PCP, is a highly dangerous and illicit drug with potent psychoactive properties. Its use can lead to severe adverse effects, including psychological dependence, violent behavior, and accidental overdose. Understanding the pharmacological effects and risks associated with PCP abuse is crucial for healthcare professionals, emergency medicine providers, and law enforcement agencies in managing cases involving PCP intoxication. By raising awareness of the dangers of angel dust abuse and providing access to appropriate talk therapy and support services, we can help individuals avoid triggers and prevent the harmful consequences of PCP use on individuals and communities.Angel dust, also known as PCP or phencyclidine, is a potent and dangerous drug that belongs to the hallucinogen class of psychoactive substances. Commonly sold in powder form or as a liquid, PCP can induce a range of effects, from sedative to hallucinogenic, depending on the dosage. However, its use is associated with a multitude of adverse effects, including psychological dependence, violent behavior, memory loss, and even accidental overdose. This article explores the dangers and effects of angel dust abuse, its pharmacological properties, withdrawal symptoms, and the clinical and legal issues surrounding its use.

Seeking Treatment? We Can Help!

At California Prime Recovery, as an in-network provider we work with most insurance plans, such as:

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to California Prime Recovery today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 866-208-2390


Angel Dust, or PCP, differs from other hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms due to its dissociative effects.

Signs of Angel Dust addiction may include mood swings, social isolation, and a strong craving for the drug.

Yes, Angel Dust addiction can be treated successfully with the right combination of therapies and support.

Yes, detoxification is often necessary to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and initiate the recovery process.

The duration of Angel Dust in the system varies but can typically be detected in urine for up to a week after use.

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