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pcppicPCP is Schedule II in the United States. This means it is illegal to sell without a DEA license and illegal to buy or possess without a license or prescription.

Addictive Potential: Medium

Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: 10-99 grams of pure, not less than 5 years

Mechanism of Action: NMDA receptor antagonist


Phencyclidine (a contraction of the chemical name phenylcyclohexylpiperidine), abbreviated PCP, is a dissociative drug formerly used as an anesthetic agent, exhibiting hallucinogenic and neurotoxic effects. It is commonly known as “Ashy Larry” or “Angel Dust”.

It was first patented in the 1950s by the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company.

Chemically PCP is an arylcyclohexylamine derivative, and pharmacologically, it is a member of the family of dissociative anesthetics. PCP works primarily as an NMDA receptor antagonist which blocks the activity of the NMDA Receptor. Other NMDA receptor antagonists include ketamine, tiletamine, and dextromethorphan. Although the primary psychoactive effects of the drug only last hours, total elimination from the body is prolonged, typically extending over weeks.

PCP was first tested after World War I as a surgical anesthetic. Because of its adverse side-effects, it was shelved until the 1950s. It was then patented by Parke-Davis and named Sernyl (supposedly referring to serenity), but was again withdrawn from the market because of side effects. It was soon renamed Sernylan, and marketed as a veterinary anaesthetic, but again discontinued. Its side effects and long half-life in the human body made it unsuitable for medical applications.

Some PCP-like drugs have multiple targets but are also used, by virtue of their PCP-like effects, as antitremor drugs (procyclidine, biperiden, trihexphenidyl) in the symptomatic treatment of Parkinson’s disease. They have side effects similar to those of PCP, the severity generally correlating with the efficacy of the drug in inhibiting NMDA receptors.

Substance Identification:

     Cobalt Thiocyanate Reagent                 
Phencyclidine HCl Strong greenish blue

(Info provided by DOJ, 2014)

Side Effects and Adverse Reactions

The use of PCP as an approved anesthetic in humans was discontinued in 1965 because patients often became agitated, delusional, and irrational while recovering from its anesthetic effects. PCP is a “dissociative drug,” meaning that it distorts perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment (dissociation) from the environment and self. First introduced as a street drug in the 1960s, PCP quickly gained a reputation as a drug that could cause bad reactions and was not worth the risk. However, some abusers are attracted by feelings of strength, power, and invulnerability as well as a numbing effect on the mind that PCP can induce. Among the adverse psychological effects reported are:

  • Symptoms that mimic schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disordered thinking, and a sensation of distance from one’s environment.
  • Mood disturbances: For example, approximately 50 percent of individuals presenting for drug-induced problems in an emergency room setting and meeting criteria for PCP use in the past 48 hours reported significant elevations in anxiety symptoms.
  • People who abuse PCP for long periods of time report memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. These symptoms can persist up to a year after stopping PCP abuse.
  • Addiction: PCP is addictive—its repeated abuse can lead to craving and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior, despite severe adverse consequences.


Scary PCP Trip

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