Reading Time: 6 minutes
Phencyclidine (PCP), otherwise known as “angel dust,” is a hallucinogen and dissociative anesthetic. Its sedating effects are trance-like and can cause “out-of-body” experiences.1 At low doses, PCP can cause certain changes in body awareness similar to those caused by alcohol intoxication. At high doses, PCP can cause hallucinations as well as seizures, paranoia, muscle arrhythmias, and death.2
PCP is highly addictive—excessive use of PCP often leads to dependence, cravings, and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. These are all characteristic signs of a PCP addiction. Fortunately, many treatment options for PCP addiction are available, including inpatient and outpatient recovery programs.
Signs You May Need PCP Addiction Treatment
PCP is an illegal street drug that usually comes in powder form, which can be dissolved in alcohol or water. It’s sold as a powder or liquid.2
People who use PCP may use it in a number of ways, such as:2
- Swallowing the powder
Any method of administration can lead to a PCP addiction, but faster methods, such as injecting, may speed up the development of addiction. You may be addicted to PCP if you find that you are unable to control your use, even when attempting to do so.
Other signs of a PCP addiction include:3,4
- Using larger amounts of PCP than originally intended
- Continuing to use PCP despite causing social, occupational, or academic problems
- Continuing to use PCP despite the knowledge that use is causing or worsening physical or psychological conditions
- Experiencing strong cravings to use PCP
- Using PCP in dangerous situations
- Mixing PCP with other substances
- Neglecting hobbies and social activities for PCP use
- Spending a significant amount of time obtaining and using PCP, as well as recovering from its effects
- Developing tolerance, which means you need more PCP to feel the same desired effects
- Developing a dependence, which means you need to use PCP in order to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms
PCP addiction manifests differently in everyone, but if you exhibit at least two of the above signs, you may have a PCP use disorder and may benefit from professional treatment. There are many types of PCP addiction treatment available, including inpatient and outpatient settings.
Types of Treatment for PCP Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with a PCP addiction, PCP detox and substance abuse treatment is available. PCP withdrawal can be effectively managed at a detox program and then once you’re stabilized, you can transition into an inpatient or outpatient PCP addiction treatment program. The specific program that you choose will largely depend on your preferences, the severity of your addiction, the presence of mental health conditions, whether you have a sober support system, and other factors. PCP addiction treatment programs include behavioral therapies that can help you manage emotional stressors and drug-using triggers.4,5
PCP withdrawal can be distressing and uncomfortable. Symptoms of PCP withdrawal may include:6
- Bizarre behaviors
- Sleep disturbances
PCP detox is the first step on the continuum of substance abuse care—it provides you with around-the-clock medical oversight and care so that you are able to stay safe and comfortable throughout your withdrawal period. Although there is no FDA-approved medication for the management of PCP withdrawal, the treatment team may administer medications to manage individual symptoms that may arise. Acute PCP withdrawal may resolve within a few days to a couple of weeks, but some symptoms may persist long-term, which is why it’s so important to enter an inpatient or outpatient treatment program after detox.6,7
If your PCP addiction is severe and has caused significant negative consequences in your life, you may want to consider an inpatient treatment program. Inpatient PCP addiction treatment programs give you time away to recover in a safe, substance-free setting. Inpatient treatment typically lasts between 30 and 90 days, depending on your needs. Inpatient treatment often includes:4,5,7
- Individual therapy
- Family groups
- Peer groups
- 12-step meetings
- Structured routine
If you need to continue working, attending school, or fulfilling obligations at home while recovering from a PCP addiction, an outpatient program may be a better option for you. The time commitment for an outpatient program depends on its intensity—more intensive options require several hours of treatment per day while less intensive ones require just a few hours per week. Outpatient treatment programs still offer similar therapies as inpatient centers, but the structure is different. This type of treatment may be beneficial if you are motivated to recover and have a strong support system.7
Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are outpatient programs that serve as an alternative to inpatient care. This hospital-based treatment is attended during for several hours during the day and does not require an overnight stay.7 These programs are typically more intensive than standard outpatient treatment, which involves a couple of hours of therapy per week. Oftentimes, people will transition from inpatient treatment to an IOP or PHP, something known as “step-down care.”
Sober Living Homes
Sober homes, also known as halfway houses, is not a type as treatment, but it serves as a transition between inpatient treatment and normal life. These are great options for people who have completed an inpatient stay but would prefer to live in a supportive, substance-free environment.7 Sober living homes typically have 24-hour staff supervision, and you have the freedom to work and attend counseling while residing there. Women’s, men’s, and co-ed sober living homes are available so you can find one where you will feel most comfortable.
Therapies for PCP Addiction Treatment
Your PCP addiction treatment program will probably utilize several different therapies to help you obtain and maintain sobriety. These therapies can help you handle triggers and stressors in a healthy way so that you don’t return to PCP use. PCP addiction therapies may include:5
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Examines the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, so that you can change maladaptive behaviors like PCP use and learn to recognize and cope with emotional stressors and drug-using triggers.
- Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): Helps you resolve your ambivalent feelings about entering PCP treatment to find the internal motivation you need to change your behavior and quit using substances. The therapist helps you to create a plan for change and teaches you coping skills. Throughout MET, the therapist monitors your change and continues to encourage abstinence.
- Contingency management: Utilizes positive reinforcement to help you stay substance-free. You receive rewards and various privileges for doing positive behaviors, such as attending therapy or taking your prescribed medications.
- Family counseling: Helps improve your communication with your family, heal any damage caused by PCP use, and improve family functioning.
Holistic Treatment Approaches
Depending on the philosophy of your treatment program, you may also receive alternative and complementary treatment approaches, such as:
- Equestrian therapy
- Art therapy
- Massage therapy
These holistic treatment approaches are not a replacement for traditional therapy—rather, they are excellent complementary approaches, which can enhance your treatment.
PCP use can have many damaging effects on your psychological and physical health. Getting help as soon as possible is key. PCP addiction treatment is available. Call our specialists at 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?) now for more resources on how to effectively treat PCP addiction.
1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits Involving Phencyclidine (PCP).
2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, May 10). Substance use – phencyclidine (PCP). MedlinePlus.
3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing.
4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 10). Treatment and Recovery.
5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, May 29). Preface. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
6. Bey, T., & Patel, A. (2007). Phencyclidine intoxication and adverse effects: a clinical and pharmacological review of an illicit drug. The California Journal of Emergency Medicine, 8(1):9-14.
7. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2006.