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Substance Use: Common Drugs

PCP

​​​​​​​​​​PCP is one of several drugs known as hallucinogens. It can also work as a stimulant, an anesthetic, or a painkiller, depending on how much is taken. The name PCP is a short form of the drug's chemical name. Some street names for PCP are Angel Dust, Supergrass, and Rocket Fuel.

What does PCP look like?

On the street, PCP is often sold as a white powder. It can also come as a liquid, capsule, or tablet.

How is PCP used?

As a powder, it's snorted. In liquid form, it can be injected. As a tablet or capsule, it's swallowed. The powder form is often mixed with tobacco, dried parsley, or cannabis and then smoked.

How does PCP affect the body?

Like all hallucinogens, PCP affects the mind and the senses. Users may see and hear things that aren’t really there. Hallucinogens also affect the person’s emotions and ability to think clearly.

PCP has different effects on different people. It causes some people to feel joy and others can feel nothing but anxiety and panic. Sometimes this panic can lead to violent behaviour. Some people have symptoms like believing things that aren't true (delusions), seeing things that aren't real (hallucinations), and feeling like someone is out to get them (paranoia). Users may feel separated​ from their environment and themselves. How people are affected depends on many things including age, sex, weight, the amount of food in the stomach, and if the person is taking other drugs.

PCP causes many body changes, including faster breathing and a faster heart rate. It can also cause blurry vision, dizziness, and numbness in the legs and arms.

Higher doses can cause:
  • the blood pressure to drop quickly
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • less ability to feel pain

Large doses can cause convulsions, coma, and death. Even a small dose mixed with alcohol or some other drugs can lead to a coma.

On the street, it's impossible to know how strong the PCP is. This makes it hard to know what its effects will be. Sometimes it can be mixed with other street drugs.

PCP is addictive. Repeated use can lead to craving and impulsive PCP-seeking behaviour, even if it can lead to very bad outcomes.

What is a flashback?

A flashback is when someone feels the effects of PCP even though they haven’t used it lately. PCP can cause flashbacks days, weeks, or months after it was last used.

What happens when PCP is used for a long time?

The long-term effects of PCP aren't really well understood. What we do know is that some people who have used PCP for a long time have memory loss, speech problems, long-term anxiety and depression, and don’t enjoy social situations.

For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the 24-hour Addiction Helpline (Alberta only).​

Current as of: July 12, 2017

Author: Poison & Drug Information Service, Alberta Health Services