Last updated: February 24, 2020
Phencyclidine, also known as PCP or angel dust, is a recreational dissociative drug. Formerly used as an anesthetic agent, PCP exhibits both hallucinogenic and neurotoxic effects.
PCP began to increase in popularity as a recreational drug in major cities in the United States during the 1960s. In 1978, People magazine called PCP the country’s “number one” drug problem. Although recreational use of the drug has always been relatively low, it began declining significantly in the 1980s.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2009, 122,000 Americans age 12 and older had abused PCP at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.
Low doses produce numbness in the extremities and intoxication, characterized by staggering, unsteady gait, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and loss of balance. Moderate doses will produce analgesia and anesthesia. Higher doses may lead to convulsions or even death.
Psychological effects include severe changes in body image, loss of ego boundaries, paranoia and depersonalization. Hallucinations, euphoria, suicidal impulses and aggressive behavior are reported. The drug has been known to alter mood states in an unpredictable fashion, causing some individuals to become detached, and others to become animated. Intoxicated individuals may act in an unpredictable fashion, possibly driven by their delusions and hallucinations. PCP may induce feelings of strength, power, and invulnerability as well as a numbing effect on the mind. Occasionally, this leads to bizarre acts of violence.