PCP might not be as widely known as other drugs of abuse such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin or ecstasy. However, it has been destroying countless lives around the world for years. Even a small dose of this hallucinogenic drug can already debilitate and disorient people. In large doses, it can cause violent and suicidal behaviour in users. They become a threat not only to themselves but other people around them as well.
Find out everything there is to know about PCP in this guide. Learn about how you can protect your company employees from this deadly drug.
What is PCP?
Phenylcyclohexyl piperidine (also known as phencyclidine or PCP) is a synthetic drug known to cause hallucinogenic effects on users.
Researchers first developed the drug to serve as an anesthetic in the 1950s. Its strong numbing effect allowed doctors to use it on humans during surgery. However, it was later learned that PCP also had dissociative effects. It caused some users to feel disconnected from their own bodies.
During the 1960s, scientists discovered that PCP also caused health-threatening side effects. Patients who used the drug became violently upset. They imagined that some terrible things were being done to them. These symptoms manifested even more when the effects of the drug started to wear off.
By 1978, the United States government halted all legal production of PCP. Officials cited the widespread street use of the drug as the reason for the stoppage. However, criminal organisations continued their PCP production in clandestine laboratories. The drug was so cheap and easy to make that almost any criminal could make it.
Most illicit drug makers and users refer to phencyclidine using the street name ‘angel dust’. Other common names include boat, dust, elephant, hog, ozone, rocket fuel, sherm, shermans, tic tac and wack. Some people use PCP along with marijuana. They refer to the drug as killer joints, killer weed, lovelies, supergrass, superweed and wets.
How PCP affects the brain
Phencyclidine works by targeting the NMDA receptor of the brain, earning the drug the classification as an NMDA receptor antagonist. This is what gives PCP its anesthetic properties. Scientists first saw these effects in rat brains. The drug also serves as a glutamate receptor antagonist.
In some cases, PCP can interact with other receptor sites as well. It can also cause other effects with dopamine, opioid and nicotinic receptors.
PCP comes in several different forms, including a variety of capsules, tablets and colored powders. Users take the drug either orally or by snorting it. They also use the drug by smoking it.
Most recreational users take phencyclidine through smoking. Some sellers offer the drug in liquid form. They dissolve the PCP base in a highly flammable solvent known as ether. The drug solution is often sprayed onto leafy material, such as marijuana, mint, oregano or parsley.
The effects of PCP use can last between 4 and 6 hours.
Phencyclidine is mostly known to cause hallucinations in users. But it can also cause other different side effects, depending on the dose used. Some of the most common adverse effects include:
- Slurred speech
- Numbness of the extremities
- Loss of coordination (sometimes accompanied by a false sense of strength and invulnerability)
- Blank stare
- Rapid and involuntary eye movements
- Having an exaggerated gait
In terms of their behaviour, users may also experience the following:
- Severe mood disorders
- Image distortion
- Auditory hallucinations
- Acute anxiety
- Violent hostility
- Psychotic behaviour similar to schizophrenia
- Amnesia (in some cases)
People who take low to moderate doses of PCP may suffer from slight increase in breathing rate. They may also experience rise in blood pressure and pulse rate, shallow breathing and flushing and profuse sweating.
Meanwhile, those who take high doses of the drug may experience a drop in blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration. They may also suffer nausea and vomiting. Other side effects include blurred vision, flicking of the eyes, drooling, dizziness or a loss of balance.
In extreme cases, PCP users may cause seizures, coma or death. Sufferers may inflict accidental injury to themselves or even commit suicide due to their intoxication.
Long-term or repetitive use of phencyclidine can lead to drug addiction. PCP addicts tend to feel dependent on the drug. They will often crave and compulsively seek the drug.
Those who used PCP for long periods typically suffer from symptoms, such as:
- Memory loss
- Speech and learning difficulties
- Weight loss
Other PCP users take the drug for its sedative effects. When the drug interacts with other depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, it can lead to accidental overdose or coma. Most emergency room cases involve patients suffering from psychological effects or overdose.
People who suffer from PCP intoxication can become violent or suicidal. In this state, they can hurt themselves or others around them.
Keeping your workplace safe from the dangers of PCP
PCP is considered one of the most dangerous drugs of abuse around. It can already cause harmful effects even when taken in small doses.
If taken in the workplace, it can severely limit the ability of workers to do their jobs safely and effectively. This is especially true for those working in high-risk settings such as drivers and heavy machinery operators.
Users are also prone to violent and suicidal behaviour. They can pose a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of their co-workers.
To protect your company and employees, you need to take the necessary precautions to prevent drug abuse at work. You can adopt a Workplace Drug Testing program to screen your workers and address any possible issues.
There’s no room for PCP or any other drugs of abuse in the workplace. It doesn’t do anybody any good to tolerate its presence. By keeping this drug out of your company, you can protect your workers as well as your business.