Last updated: October 25, 2021
Although its medical use was discontinued long ago, drug abusers still obtain PCP on the black market. Used for its mind-altering effects, drug abusers experience a high that lasts up to eight hours. Drug tests pick up on PCP use much longer though. It remains in the user’s system up to ninety days.
Overall, the length of time PCP detection is possible directly relates to the drug testing method used.
Types of drug tests
The most common types of drug testing are urine, saliva, hair, or blood tests. The length of time a drug depends on certain factors, with the exception of the hair test.
Hair follicle test
The hair follicle drug tests are unique. Drug metabolites are stored throughout the body until excretion occurs. One of the places they are stored is within the hair follicle. The metabolites actually grow out of the hair follicle and into the center of the hair shaft. This leaves a permanent record of drug use for any and all drugs.
It’s estimated that human hair grows about one-half inch per month. Hair submitted for testing is customarily cut to a length of one and one-half inches or “three months worth” of hair. This establishes the 90 day detection period for PCP.
However, some court-ordered drug tests require a longer period of detection. Lab technicians merely increase the length of hair used for testing to accommodate them.
Urine drug tests are the most commonly used drug testing method.
Drug testing in the workplace became more widespread after the Drug-Free Workplace Act was established in 1988. At that time, the Department of Transportation (DOT) enacted urine drug testing regulations for all employers of safety-sensitive positions. As employers of the general workforce realized the benefits of enforcing a drug-free workplace policy, they began setting up their own protocols. Many looked to the DOT as a model to follow.
In fact, urine drug testing is so commonplace, if someone hears the words drug test, they just assume they are going to have to “pee in a cup.”
It takes a few hours to detect PCP in urine after ingestion. After that, urine tests pick up on PCP between one and seven days. However, heavy users risk detection for up to four weeks.
Some refer to a saliva test as the mouth swab test. The term mouth swab refers to the test applicator though not that the technician literally swabs the test subjects mouth. The applicator, or swab, is placed between the subjects cheek and lower jaw. It’s left in place for up to five minutes until it becomes saturated with saliva.
Employers and law enforcement choose mouth swab tests to detect recent drug use. The detection period is much shorter than other methods.
These tests detect PCP in the saliva within five to ten minutes of use and for up to three days.
Blood tests are the most expensive testing method for drug testing. They require administration by medically trained personnel and are considered very invasive. For these reasons, most employers reserve this method of testing for catastrophic or post-accident testing to aid in discovering who is responsible for an accident.
Moreover, blood tests have the shortest period of detection. Blood tests detect the parent drug rather than its metabolites.
Consequently, PCP is best detected within one to four hours of use because the plasma levels peak during that time.
Why the difference?
The reason for the varied detection times relies heavily on the dosage. Taking more of this drug before it completes the metabolization process greatly increases the chance of suffering serious side effects.
There are other contributing factors though.
- Age plays a big part in the detection time. Young people normally have a faster metabolism. This enables them to eliminate the drug from their body more quickly. However, that isn’t always the case. It also depends on DNA makeup.
- Your overall health makes a difference too. Someone in poor health is likely to have the drug in their system longer.
- Individual body mass also plays a part. Generally, larger people retain drugs in their system longer than someone who is smaller.
What’s the appeal?
Developed in the 1950s, PCP’s (Phencyclidine) intended use was as an intravenous anesthetic. However, the horrible side effects of postoperative delirium, confusion, and hallucinations nixed that. Its medical use lasted a mere fifteen years. From that point, all manufacturing takes place in illegal laboratories across the nation. It hit the streets in the 60s but didn’t become widely abused until the 80s when smoking the drug became all the rage.
Although PCP can be snorted, injected, or swallowed, when bought in powder form, users mix the drug with water or alcohol. They spray the liquid form of the drug on a leafy material, such as marijuana or parsley, and smoke it.
Subsequently, the user experiences the effects of PCP within two to five minutes of smoking or injecting it. It takes up to 30 minutes for it to kick in if swallowed in pill form.
The peak experience occurs within thirty minutes. The high lasts about four to six hours. However, users don’t feel “normal” again for up to forty-eight hours later.
The mind-altering effects of the drug are what users are after.
- A detached feeling
- A burst of “superpower” strength with little fear
- “Rushes” (intense, but short-lived, pleasurable experiences)
- Walking rapidly
The dangers tip the scale
The adverse effects of PCP use far outweigh the thrill of the high though. The medical community discontinued using PCP after realizing its negative effects. Patients exhibited extreme agitation and became aggressive and violent. Hallucinations lasting over twelve hours and symptoms resembling schizophrenia were not uncommon.
Moreover, the list of ill-effects continues:
- Brain damage
- Slurred speech
- High blood pressure
- Irregular breathing
- Muscle rigidity
- Suicidal thoughts
Large doses of PCP can cause kidney failure, heart arrhythmias, muscle rigidity, or death. PCP is psychologically addicting. When someone’s mind is dependent on the drug, they are not able to control their use of it. Moreover, addiction leads to tolerance. It requires larger doses to obtain the same high.
To make matters worse, tolerance leads to withdrawal when discontinuing use of the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Feelings of fear or unease
- Feelings of excitement, confusion, or irritability
- Weight loss
Thus, users often resort to finding more of the drug and find themselves trapped in the vicious cycle that is drug addiction.
In closing, it’s important to continue education on the dangers of all drug use. It allows people to make informed decisions.
If they see the above lists of positive and negative effects before trying the drug, maybe they’ll pass.