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Phencyclidine, better known as “Angel Dust” or simply “PCP”, is a hallucinogen. Like many other drugs that are now widely recognized to be dangerous, Phencyclidine was originally developed for medical purposes. It was taken off the market in 1965 due to its potential for abuse, and began to be used recreationally by about 1967. In fact, PCP abuse became so rampant that by the late 1970s, 13% of high school students had tried it and it was labeled America’s #1 drug problem.

PCP Abuse & Addiction

  • Method of Consumption: PCP can be snorted, swallowed, smoked, or injected, with injection being the strongest method of delivery.
  • Legal Status: Schedule II in the US (has a high potential for abuse & addiction, but nevertheless has an accepted medical use)
  • Appearance: Yellow in base form (for smoking), off-white in pure crystal form (for snorting), ranging from tan to brown in impure crystal form
  • Slang: Smoking PCP is known as “getting wet”, while PCP-laced cigarettes and marijuana joints are known as “fry sticks,” “sherm,” “wet sticks,” and “happy sticks.”

What are the Effects of Using PCP?

Angel Dust is a hallucinogenic drug with dissociative properties. This means it can cause the user to feel detached from reality, as well as experience the audio-visual hallucinations that are associated with psychedelic substances. While street PCP can be cut with other substances (which impact its effects on the user), pure Angel Dust requires high doses to induce dissociation/hallucinations. However, it also depends on how the drug is consumed.

PCP & Psychotic Episodes

Although it is currently unclear whether PCP causes psychosis or merely exacerbates existing symptoms, multiple cases have linked the two. Phencyclidine-related psychotic states may be distinguished from other psychotic episodes by the following symptoms, which are summarized in the acronym “RED DANES”:

  • Rage
  • Erythema (redness of the skin that disappears with finger pressure)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Delusions
  • Amnesia
  • Nystagmus (involuntary and erratic eye movement, sometimes called “dancing eyes”)
  • Excitement
  • Skin dryness