Known as “angel dust” on the streets, Phencyclidine (PCP) is a mind-altering drug classified as a Schedule II drug. Made in 1926 and seeing its first use in the 1950s, PCP was a popular surgical anesthetic and later became a common animal tranquilizer in veterinary practice. PCP was so popular in the medical field because of its minor negative effects on the heart and lungs. Later; however, people noticed that its adverse side effects greatly outweighed its uses. By 1967, PCP use was limited to animal use until around 1978, when the sale of PCP was made illegal.

Having a high probability of misuse, abuse, and addiction, PCP is undoubtedly a dangerous drug. Once someone finds themselves suffering from PCP addiction, quitting can be very difficult. Chronic use of PCP can easily lead to dependence, and while attempting to detox from it, you may find yourself suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

Here at Maryland House Detox, we understand that seeking professional help can pose a challenge, and we are here to offer any help we can. If you or a loved one suffers from PCP addiction, it is crucial to know what PCP is, how withdrawal works, and what PCP withdrawal is like specifically.

PCP Addiction and Dependency

PCP was first introduced as a medical anesthetic, having uses in both human medicine and veterinary medicine. Now a modern recreational drug, it is popular for its hallucinogenic and numbing effects. 

People who consistently use and abuse PCP are at high risk of addiction; in the case of PCP, addiction is especially dangerous due to the fact that it stays in the body for eight days and longer. This means that not only will withdrawal symptoms be almost guaranteed, but they will last longer and may possibly be delayed once PCP use is ceased.

PCP, as a Class II substance, has a high potential for abuse and PCP is actually one of the most commonplace recreational drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.1 million people 12 and up have reported their use of PCP at least once, accounting for roughly 2.5 percent of everyone 12 and up. When PCP is constantly used and abused, a tolerance can quickly form and can cause the person suffering from addiction to increase dose amounts. Once it gets to the “increasing dose” point, PCP withdrawal symptoms are extremely severe as opposed to mildly uncomfortable in newer, shorter-term addictions.

General Withdrawal Symptoms

PCP withdrawal has both short-term and long-term symptoms. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is dependent on both the dose amounts for the victim’s PCP addiction as well as the duration that they suffered from PCP addiction.

Some common short-term PCP withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Higher body temperature
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Muscle twitches
  • Agitation and aggression
  • Hallucinations

Acidosis is the condition in which too much acid accumulates in the body, and has also been reported in a few PCP users experiencing withdrawal. Although much rarer than other symptoms, it should not be completely ruled out as being a withdrawal symptom; doing so can be dangerous and even fatal.

Some common long-term PCP withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Speech impairment
  • Cognitive function impairment

It is important to note that some of the long-term PCP withdrawal symptoms can last as long as a year, but this is again largely affected by duration of the patient’s addiction.

Detoxing to Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms

Seeing as Maryland House Detox specializes in the medical detoxification stage of recovery, we know all too well the importance of detox before engaging in intensive recovery. Though not physically addictive, PCP can prove to be psychologically addictive and should be treated with caution.

Even in a medically supervised professional environment, detoxing from PCP is tricky due to the fact that it can be both psychologically and physically dependent. Doctors and nurses work around the clock to ensure that your breathing rate, body temperature, circulation, and other factors are in peak condition. This makes it so the patient is as comfortable as possible while in detox.

While in detox, your medical supervisors will slowly reduce the amount of PCP residue in your system via gradual tapering. While in the medical detox phase of recovery, you will be under constant surveillance and supervision. This is an essential part of the success of detox and recovery in total, further proving why professional medical detox is possibly the only solid way to handle PCP withdrawal and addiction.

In early stages of detox, you will likely experience some withdrawal symptoms such as agitation or minor seizures. Lorazepam or a number of other benzodiazepines can be used as medication to treat these convulsions and mood swings. As for the psychological PCP withdrawal symptoms, the doctor may administer doses of antipsychotics (phenothiazines, haloperidol). In detox, your medical supervisors try to avoid the use of many antipsychotics due to the fact that it makes the patient more prone to seizures, hyperthermia, and involuntary muscle movement.

Cold Turkey

When treated properly, PCP can be detoxed off with relative ease; however, many people take it upon themselves to self-detox at home. A majority of the time, the victim suffering from PCP addiction will quit cold turkey in an attempt to recover from addiction quickly. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process and for the right reasons. Any shortcuts made, including quitting cold turkey, will almost always have negative side effects and be extremely detrimental to the entire recovery process.

As someone suffering from PCP addiction and withdrawals, detox can go one of two ways. The first is going cold turkey and the second is professional treatment. In the case you do not know what the term “cold turkey” means, it is the immediate cessation of a drug by an abuser in an attempt at self-detox. Many people try to quit many substances by going cold turkey, including PCP, and it should be avoided at all costs.

We understand that detoxing is very difficult, which is why our team of professional doctors and nurses may even need the aid of medications like Valium to aid in your detox process. If PCP addiction detox can pose a challenge even for medical experts with help from medications, you can only imagine how dangerous quitting cold turkey at home is.

Crystalline drugs in a glass jar

After Detox

A common misconception is that, once detoxification is completed, people are ready to return to their everyday lives. While this may sometimes be the case, it is almost never effective in keeping someone sober. Stopping drug addiction treatment after detox very rarely goes unpunished, as relapse is very common in people that do not complete full treatment. 

Because it is more a psychologically than a physically addicting drug, we encourage PCP users that have completed detox to continue treatment in a residential treatment program. While in a residential environment, psychiatrists and therapists help you explore the roots of your addiction, further preventing withdrawals, cravings, and anything relapse related.

For the roughly 60-90 days that you will be in residential treatment, you will find yourself in a comfortable environment around people struggling with the same kind of problems you are. Group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many other low-intensity activities will help you stay sober while a resident.

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