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Dangers of the Dust: What PCP Really Does to You

Updated on December 15, 2017
Sleeping off the drugs
Sleeping off the drugs | Source

The United States is in the throes of an opioid epidemic. Every single day, more people succumb to the power of these substances, effectively destroying their lives. Addiction is a disease, and it's easy to see why drug users struggle to stop once they've started.

PCP is extremely dangerous, not only with its effects, but also its addictive nature that often leads to deadly drug use. PCP, which stands for Phencyclidine, is known on the streets as "Angel Dust," "Rocket Fuel," or "Animal Trank". As party drugs and hallucinogens have inundated the drug market, PCP has become a force to be reckoned with.

Angel Dust Statistics

What was once difficult to get your hands on is now readily available for those who want it, and data shows that many people do—the National Drug Intelligence Center estimates that more than 6 million people in the US ages 12 and older have tried PCP at some point. This survey also revealed that 225,000 individuals aged 12 to 17 had used the drug at least once, with 777,000 individuals aged 18 to 25 admitting they tried it.

The numbers suggest usage is on the rise, with a 2013 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showing that overall emergency room visits related to PCP increased by more than 400% between 2005 and 2011. The data demonstrates that men may be using more than women, with 51,906 male patients admitted to hospitals in 2011 for PCP-related cases, compared to 23,598 females. However, incidents with all genders are on an upward climb- a discouraging trend for our society.

No Angels Here
No Angels Here | Source

Angel Dust-Not So Angelic After All

Many people wonder what angel dust does to you, and they give in to the temptation to try. This choice can have life-altering, and potentially life-threatening, consequences. As a dissociative drug, PCP can cause delusions of supreme strength, euphoria, and enhanced social and sexual abilities.

It is a hallucinogen with a glutamatergic NMDA receptor blocker that sticks to sites in the brain's cortex and limbic structures. This has an effect on dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels, and quickly induces a dissociative anesthetic state. This entails a variety of alarming effects, including sight and sound distortion, sedation, detachment and amnesia.

Like with any drug, effects vary based on administration and dosage. When smoked, PCP can induce effects in as little as two minutes. When swallowed, users will notice effects within 30-60 minutes.

The sensations and hallucinations typically last between 4-8 hours, but some users remain under the influence for up to 48 hours. Low to moderate doses of 1-5mg will cause numbness, slurred speech, feelings of detachment, and loss of coordination paired with a false sense of strength and invulnerability.

As "Angel Dust" seeps into a person's system, the drug works its addictive powers, rendering many hopeless against its abilities. Users often get hooked and become physically dependent on PCP.

People on PCP often believe they are invincible, and they attempt to push their physical boundaries as their senses aren't working properly. Higher dosages can result in catatonic posturing and hallucinations, and physiologic effects include raised temperature, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, and increased blood pressure.

The Angel of Death

Chronic use can cause permanent cognitive, speech and memory impairment, as well as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Regular PCP users may display disorganized thought processes such as delirium, amnesia, dysphoria and paranoia.

Impaired reasoning is one of the most severe side effects of PCP use, as the alarming risk of self-injury may result in death. Most PCP-related fatalities are attributed to self-inflicted injury, extreme physical exertions, or injuries sustained while resisting physical restraints as a result of intoxication. People under the influence of PCP have been known to believe they are physically capable of surviving crazy, potentially deadly stunts, whether that be jumping from a building or running in front of oncoming traffic.

Deaths resulting from direct effects of PCP use have included acute renal failure, hyperthermia, disseminated intravascular coagulation (overactive blood clotting proteins), and rhabdomyolysis which is the death of muscle cells with breakdown products released into the bloodstream.

Like all drugs, the danger and devastating consequences seem obvious as heartbreaking tragedies of lives lost flood the internet and TV, but it's not enough to deter some people from seeking the unknown and trying PCP. They may think it's all in good fun and just this once, but it's not. The drug will work quickly, sinking its destructive grip into users like a stealthy snake- pouncing on the most vulnerable victims. PCP will entrap and entangle people in the vicious cycle of addiction.

Angel Dust in the Media

Some celebrities and public figures are using their influence to warn others about the risks of hard drug use. While the hip-hop genre is chock full of references to illicit substances in songs and music videos, one famous rapper recently took a stand, coming clean about the dangers of PCP with deeply personal lyrics. In his new song appropriately titled “Angel Dust,” Nas sends a clear message to just say no:

“Angels with dirty faces, angels with broken wings. The devil’s dust, PCP, invaded blood streams. People lining up to get it, Fantastic knew how to flip it. Illegal substances constructing, but plus addicted. Trust it and respect it, almost got me arrested. All of the time I invested in school is now of question.”

This song sends a powerful message, one that’s ever so important as PCP and other drugs wreak havoc on society. It affects people of all ages, with a University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey revealing that more than 3 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. used the drug at least once in their lifetime. More than one percent had used PCP in the past year. It’s frightening to imagine young adults damaging their futures over a harmful substance.

Dangers of Angel Dust
Dangers of Angel Dust | Source

Other Dangers of Angel Dust

One of the scariest aspects of drug use is lacing, when powerful substances are hidden within other drugs to create a lethal combination. PCP in its pure form is a water-or-alcohol-soluble white crystalline powder.

It’s also found in liquid, tablet and capsule forms. But the recent rise in PCP-related cases mainly involves a mix of PCP with other substances including tobacco, marijuana and synthetic drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy).

There are even cases where dodgy drug dealers sell PCP disguised and labeled as something else, so the drug user has no idea what they are really putting into their bodies.

Drug use is an outrageously expensive habit that can decimate one’s personal finances, career and relationships. According to the DEA, PCP is sold anywhere from $5-$15 per tablet or $20-$30 per powder gram.

Those looking to purchase in liquid ounces will have to shell out upwards of $200-$300 to get their fix. One dose of PCP is enough to keep users coming back for more, effectively emptying their money into a death trap.

Along with methamphetamine and cocaine, PCP is classified as a Schedule II drug by the DEA under the Controlled Substance Act. These powerful substances are considered to have a high potential for abuse that may lead to dependence.

If you or someone you love is using PCP, seeking help right away can mean the difference between life and death. This powerful and illicit substance can have devastating effects on you and your loved one’s lives. Call Detox to Rehab’s National Helpline at (866) 578-7471 to speak to a trusted voice who can help you find a treatment provider.

Have you or someone you know ever experimented with "Angel Dust"?

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      Caroline Bailey 3 months ago

      Angel dust is so scary. I'm glad I never went down that path.

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      Susana Spiegel 3 months ago

      WOW! Luckily, I have never run into PCP. I always think of PCP as an extreme drug, but I can't say that if it was offered to me before while I was in active addiction, that I wouldn't have tried it.

      This article is very informative and I enjoyed reading it! I know that PCP isn't so prevalent now, but it is still accessible and people should be warned of the dangers.

      Bravo on this article!