PCP Withdrawal Symptoms & Detoxification

PCP withdrawal symptoms may be uncomfortable and severity may vary. Here's what you need to know about PCP withdrawal and getting treatment

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Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP or angel dust, is a modern recreational drug. Formerly used as an anesthetic agent, this dissociative drug remains popular for its hallucinogenic and neurotoxic effects. Addicts who use PCP may experience delayed PCP withdrawal because it can stay within the body eight days or longer. However, the hallucinogenic effects of the drug usually last only a few hours.

PCP Withdrawal Symptoms

Short-term effects of PCP withdrawal may include elevated body temperature, seizures, and muscle breakdown. Muscle twitching, agitation, and hallucinations may also occur depending on the length of use. Acidosis has also been reported in some PCP users undergoing withdrawal.

Depression and memory loss are long-term withdrawal symptoms that can last as long as a year after the initial detoxification. Weight loss, speech impairment, and impaired cognitive function have also been reported to last months after detoxification. However, the possibility of developing these symptoms and their duration is largely affected by how long the patient has used PCP.

PCP Withdrawal Treatment Options

Once a patient begins to experience PCP withdrawal symptoms, treatment will focus on supportive care to alleviate discomfort during the process. The breath rate, circulation, and body temperature of each patient undergoing PCP withdrawal treatment are carefully monitored. If necessary, steps are taken to control these vital signs and keep the patient as comfortable as possible.

In the early stages of PCP withdrawal, Lorazepam or another benzodiazepine is used to control psychiatric symptoms. For someone undergoing PCP withdrawal, these symptoms are usually agitation or seizures.

If psychotic symptoms are present during the detoxification process, antipsychotics, such as phenothiazines or haloperidol, may be administered. However, doctors are sometimes reluctant to administer phenothiazines because they can lower the seizure threshold, increase hyperthermia, and cause involuntary muscle movement. Even haloperidol can cause muscle contractions or twitching. If an antipsychotic is determined to be necessary, using intramuscular haloperidol is recommended.

In the past, administering forced acid diuresis was part of the detoxification treatment. However, recent research indicates that only 10 percent of a dose of PCP is eliminated through the kidneys. Forced acid diuresis can also increase the acidity of the blood and other tissue and cause muscle breakdown. For this reason, it is usually avoided.

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PCP Rehab Options After Detox

After the physical detoxification symptoms have stopped, further rehabilitation is necessary to prevent the patient from relapsing. In most cases, a combination of group therapy, individual therapy, and support groups are recommended for the newly recovered addict. In order to focus on their recovery, many patients choose an in-patient facility so they can avoid the temptation of drugs while receiving counseling.

Once detoxification is finished, the patient can also choose a day program. Day programs allow the patient to return home every night, but these programs still offer the same counseling available for residential patients.

Choosing a rehabilitation program should be discussed during the admitting process, prior to detoxification. Staff at a hospital or rehabilitation facility will be able to assess each patient’s level of addiction and support system to make the best possible recommendation.

After the first few weeks of recovery have passed, patients may continue their recovery by attending a support group. Patients who were using PCP as an escape from their daily lives may find that further individual therapy is required. Individual therapy can help former PCP users restructure their lives and address any underlying problems that may have led to drug use.

If you would like help undergoing PCP withdrawal and starting the rehabilitation process, call for more information about treatment options.

PCP Information at a Glance
Form, Intake and Dosage Interactions and Complications
  • Drug Forms: Powder, Crystallized, Liquid
  • Administration Routes: Elixir, syrup, smoking
  • Dosage: 5 mg or less
  • Overdose: More than 10 mg
  • Alcohol Interaction: Increase in PCP effectiveness and faster onset of effects
  • Illicit Drugs: Mixing with other illicit drugs increases hallucinatory effects as well as the risk of permanent drug damage.
  • Prescription Medications: N/A
  • Contraindications: N/A
Effects and Adverse Reactions Substance Abuse
  • Short-Term: Feelings of strength/invincibility, numbness of extremities, slurred speech, loss of balance
  • Long-Term: Change in body image, paranoia, suicidal impulses, detachment from reality and relationships, self-injury, hallucinations, death, memory loss.
  • Risk of Substance Abuse: High
  • Signs of Abuse: Acting unpredictably, detachment from friends/family, increased aggression, irritability and mood swings,
Physiological Problem Signs and Symptoms Dependence and Addiction Issues
  • Withdrawal Syndrome Onset: Several Days
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Violence, shakes, convulsions, tremors, psychosis.
  • Tolerance: Increased usage required to receive effects.
  • Cross Dependence: N/A
  • Physical Dependence: Low
  • Psychological Dependence: High
Legal Schedules and Ratings
  • Controlled Substances Act Rating: Schedule II