The University of Arizona

History, Pharmacology, and Prevalence
Overview of Various Other Illicit Drugs:
Phencyclidine (PCP)

PCP was developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic, but its use for humans was discontinued because it caused some patients to become agitated, delusional, and/or irrational.(1)  Today, PCP is illegally manufactured in labs and sold as tablets, capsules, or colored powder.  It can be snorted, smoked, or eaten.  PCP is a dissociative drug in the sense that it distorts perceptions of sight and sound, while producing the feelings of detachment from the environment and self.  The effects of dissociative drugs are caused by their ability to alter the distribution of glutamate throughout the brain.[2]

PCP use can lead to dependence.  At low to moderate doses, the physiological effects of PCP include [2]:

  • Slight increase in breathing rate
  • Rise in blood pressure and pulse rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Flushing and profuse sweating
  • Generalized numbness of the extremities
  • Loss of muscular coordination

At high doses of PCP, the physiologic effects include [2]:

  • Drop in blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Flicking up and down of the eyes
  • Drooling
  • Loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Abusers are sometimes brought into emergency rooms due to overdose or the adverse psychological effects of the drug.  Patients experiencing such effects can become violent or suicidal and may pose a threat to themselves and others.[2]

Street names for PCP include angel dust, hog, ozone, rocket fuel, wack, and super weed.



  • (1) National Drug Intelligence Center. PCP Fast Facts. 2003. Johnstown, PA.
  • (2) NIDA. PCP (Phencyclidine). Rockville, MD; 2007 Jun.


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