PCP, also known as phencyclidine and angel dust, was originally developed as a general anesthetic but became a popular substance in the 1960s. It’s listed as a Schedule II drug in the United States, which makes it illegal to possess.

Like wide-leg jeans, PCP’s popularity comes and goes. It’s become a common club drug in the last couple of decades and produces effects similar to other dissociative substances, like special K.

To get an idea of how powerful it is, just look at the other slang terms for it:

  • elephant tranquilizer
  • horse tranquilizer
  • embalming fluid
  • rocket fuel
  • DOA (dead on arrival)
  • lethal weapon

Healthline does not endorse the use of any illegal substances, and we recognize abstaining from them is always the safest approach. However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur when using.

PCP can be ingested orally, snorted, smoked, or injected, depending on its form. It can be found in tablets and capsules. Most of the time, it’s sold in its original form: a white crystalline powder.

Most people smoke it by sprinkling it on cannabis, tobacco, or plant leaves like mint or parsley. People also dissolve it in a liquid and dip cigarettes or joints in the solution.

It really depends on the dose.

PCP causes psychological and physical effects that can be unpredictable, especially in larger doses.

At a lower dose, PCP makes you feel euphoric, floaty, and disconnected from your body and surroundings. As you increase the dose, the effects get more intense, leading to hallucinations and erratic behavior.

Psychological effects of PCP can include:

Physical effects of PCP can include:

If PCP is smoked, snorted, or injected, you typically begin to feel the effects within 2 to 5 minutes.

If you ingest it orally, the effects take longer to kick in — usually 30 to 60 minutes.

The reason for the time difference is how fast the substance enters your bloodstream. When taken orally, your digestive system processes it first, hence the longer onset time.

PCP’s effects generally last from 6 to 24 hours but linger up to around 48 hours in some people. In people with more body fat, effects can come and go or fluctuate over a few days to months.

PCP is fat-soluble and stored by fat cells, so your lipid stores and fatty tissues hang on to it longer.

Factors like how much you use and whether you’re using other substances also affect how long you feel angel dust.

It seems to depend on how much you use, according to user accounts on forums like Reddit.

Low doses mostly appear to wear off gradually and produce an “afterglow” in some people with mild stimulation. Coming down from a larger dose, however, involves intense hangover symptoms, like:

Some people also report numbness in their arms and legs.

The comedown usually lasts around 24 hours once you reach baseline.

PCP’s half-life is somewhere around 21 hours, but it can be detected for a few days to months depending on:

  • type of drug test used
  • body mass
  • metabolism
  • age
  • hydration level
  • dosage
  • frequency of use

Here’s the general detection window for PCP by test:

  • Urine: Up to 4 weeks
  • Blood: 24 hours
  • Saliva: 1 to 10 days
  • Hair: up to 90 days

Combining PCP with other substances, including prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), and other recreational substances, raises the risk of serious effects and overdose.

This is especially true when you mix angel dust and substances that depress the central nervous system (CNS). The combo can cause your breathing to become dangerously slow and lead to respiratory arrest or coma.

PCP may potentially interact with:

Yes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, repeated use can lead to tolerance and the development of a substance use disorder, including withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it.

Some potential signs of PCP-related substance use disorder include:

  • cravings intense enough to affect your ability to think about other things
  • a need to use more PCP to experience the same effects
  • unease or discomfort if you can’t easily access PCP
  • trouble managing work, school, or household responsibilities because of your PCP use
  • friendship or relationship difficulties caused by your PCP use
  • spending less time on activities you used to enjoy
  • withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using PCP

If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, don’t panic. You have plenty of options for support, which we’ll get to later.

PCP is associated with several serious risks that you need to be aware of, especially if you use it often, for a long time, or in larger doses.

Learning and memory issues

Taking PCP (even in low doses) can take a toll on your memory.

Long-term use can cause lasting learning and memory deficiencies that can affect day-to-day functioning.


Long-term PCP use can cause a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).

HPPD causes you to experience flashbacks and hallucinations for a long time after substance use.

Persistent speech problems

Long-term use can affect your ability to speak properly or at all.

Speech problems can include:

  • stuttering
  • trouble articulating
  • inability to speak

Severe depression

Feelings of depression and anxiety are common effects, even with low doses of PCP.

Higher doses or frequent use can cause severe depression and anxiety, along with suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Toxic psychosis

Chronic PCP use can cause toxic psychosis, especially if you have a history of mental health issues.

When this happens, you can experience symptoms like:

  • aggressive or violent behavior
  • paranoia
  • delusions
  • auditory hallucinations

Overdose and death

Fatal overdoses are possible when you take a large amount of PCP. But most PCP-related deaths result from dangerous behavior caused by delusions and other psychological effects.

PCP use has been linked to:

  • accidental drowning
  • jumping from high places
  • violent episodes

If you’re going to use PCP, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe:

  • Stick to a low dose. Anything over 5 milligrams can cause serious effects. Use a low dose and avoid redosing in the same session.
  • Don’t use it often. Bingeing, frequent use, and long-term use can have long lasting and even fatal consequences.
  • Don’t do it alone. You could trip out pretty bad and experience hallucinations, erratic or violent behavior, or seizures. Have someone sober stay with you who knows how to spot the signs of trouble and will get you help if you need it.
  • Choose a safe setting. Since your behavior can be unpredictable when you use angel dust, being someplace safe and familiar is important.
  • Stay hydrated. PCP can raise your body temperature and cause profuse sweating. Avoid dehydration by having some water before and after you use it.
  • Don’t mix. Combining substances raises your risk for overdose and death. Avoid mixing PCP with alcohol or any other substance.

Call 911 or local emergency services right away if you or anyone else experiences any of these signs or symptoms of overdose:

  • trouble breathing
  • pinpoint pupils
  • high body temperature
  • high blood pressure
  • irregular heart rate
  • confusion
  • agitation
  • aggressive behavior
  • uncoordinated movements
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

Treatment for an adverse reaction or potential overdose of PCP may require multiple medical interventions, including:

  • Sedation. This may include physical restraints or medications, such as benzodiazepines, to control agitation or treat psychosis. You might also be placed in a calm, dimly lit room.
  • Activated charcoal. This is sometimes used in cases where large amounts of PCP are ingested. Activated charcoal works by binding to the drug to prevent it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Airway protection. Because PCP can cause respiratory issues, your doctor should monitor your breathing carefully. Intubation or the use of a ventilator may be required in some cases to help you breathe properly.
  • Monitoring. Your doctor will monitor your heart rate and blood pressure carefully. Additional treatments or medical interventions may be necessary to correct any issues and prevent severe complications.
  • Psychiatric evaluation. This may be recommended to address behavioral issues after symptoms resolve.

Long-term treatment may involve inpatient therapy at a rehabilitation facility, which provides round-the-clock care from a team of mental health care professionals in a supportive environment.

Outpatient therapy may also be an option for those who require more flexibility. These programs involve participating in individual or group therapy sessions during the day and returning home after each session.

Sudden discontinuation of PCP can cause physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Though withdrawal from PCP is not life threatening, it may require treatment from a trained healthcare professional.

Some potential withdrawal symptoms include:

According to one 2007 review, these symptoms often begin around 8 hours after discontinuation and may last several weeks or months, depending on the duration and frequency of PCP use.

Long-term or chronic use of dissociative drugs like PCP may also cause speech difficulties, memory loss, suicidal thoughts, social withdrawal, and anxiety.

These symptoms may persist 1 year or more after discontinuing use.

If you’re worried about your substance use and want help, you have options for getting support:

  • Talk with your primary doctor or other healthcare professional. Be honest with them about your use. Patient confidentiality laws prevent them from reporting this information with law enforcement.
  • Call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), or use their online treatment locater.
  • Find a support group or treatment center through the Safe Locater.

PCP is a drug that can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, which often increase in intensity with higher dosages.

It may interfere with several other substances and repeated use can cause tolerance and several long-term side effects. Furthermore, taking a large amount can lead to an overdose and could increase the risk of dangerous, aggressive, or violent behavior.

If you do decide to use PCP, there are several steps you can take to keep yourself safe. There are also many options available for support if you are concerned about your substance use.

What is the origin of angel dust?

Angel dust was originally developed in 1926 and introduced as a general anesthetic in the 1950s. However, it was discontinued in 1967 and limited to veterinary use due to its adverse side effects.

In the 1960s, it emerged as a popular street drug and its use became widespread in the 1970s.

Is PCP a horse tranquilizer?

PCP is known by many other names, including horse tranquilizer. Though it’s no longer approved for use in humans, it’s still sometimes used as a tranquilizer for animals.

Where did PCP come from?

PCP was initially developed as a general anesthetic for surgery by Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company. Though it was briefly used in humans, it was soon discontinued due to its psychological and behavioral side effects.

Moderate to high doses of PCP can cause symptoms of psychosis that mimic schizophrenia, even in people without a history of mental illness. This may include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

What is PCP made of?

PCP is a synthetic drug made from a combination of chemicals, including potassium cyanide, bromobenzene, ether, and hydrochloric acid.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.