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Phencyclidine (ˈ)fen-ˈsik-lə-ˌdēn, -ˈsī-klə-, -dən

by Patrick G. O’Connor, MD, MPH

Phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust) is most often smoked after being sprinkled on plant material, such as parsley, mint leaves, tobacco, or marijuana. Occasionally, PCP is taken by mouth or injected.

Symptoms

PCP depresses brain function, and users usually become confused and disoriented shortly after taking the drug. They may not know where they are, who they are, or what time or day it is. They may go into a trance as if hypnotized. PCP users can be combative, and because they do not feel pain, they may continue fighting even when they are hit hard. Salivation, sweating, blood pressure, and heart rate also increase. Muscle tremors (shaking) are common.

High doses (overdose) can cause hallucinations, seizures, a life-threatening high body temperature (hyperthermia), coma, and possibly death. Long-term PCP use may damage the brain, kidneys, and muscles.

Treatment

When PCP users become agitated (as most do when brought for treatment), they are put in a quiet room and allowed to relax. Their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing are monitored frequently. Soothing talk does not help. In fact, they may become even more agitated. If quiet surroundings do not calm agitated people, the doctor may give them a sedative such as lorazepam.

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