Page header image

PCP Use Disorder: Teen Version



  • PCP is an illegal drug that causes you to see, hear, and feel things that are not real. PCP causes intense mood swings that can lead to violence or suicide. PCP use disorder is a pattern of using drugs that leads to serious personal, family, and health problems.
  • PCP use disorder can be treated. For any treatment to be successful, you must want to stop using PCP. When you stop using PCP, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help you get through withdrawal symptoms.


What is PCP use disorder?

PCP, or phencyclidine hydrochloride, is an illegal drug that causes you to see, hear, and feel things that are not real. PCP causes intense mood swings that can lead to violence or suicide. It has other names, including angel dust. PCP can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken by mouth.

PCP use disorder is a pattern of using PCP that leads to serious personal, family, and health problems. The more of these statements that apply to you, the more severe your PCP use disorder is.

  1. You use more or use PCP for longer than you planned.
  2. You want to cut down or quit, but are not able to do so.
  3. You spend a lot of time and energy getting PCP, using PCP, and getting over the effects.
  4. You crave PCP so much that you have trouble thinking about anything else.
  5. You have problems at work or school, or stop taking care of people who depend on you.
  6. You have relationship problems because you don’t keep your promises, or you argue or get violent with other people.
  7. You stop doing things that used to matter to you, such as sports, hobbies, or spending time with friends or family, because of your PCP use.
  8. You use PCP even when it is dangerous, such as while driving or operating machinery.
  9. You keep using PCP even though you know that it is hurting your physical or mental health.
  10. You need to use more and more PCP, or use it more often to get the same effects. This is called tolerance.
  11. You have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using.

PCP use disorder may also be called drug abuse, substance abuse, dependence, or addiction.

What is the cause?

PCP changes the way your body and brain work. When you use PCP, your brain starts to get used to it. As a result, you think about PCP all the time, you don't feel good unless you use PCP, and you may act different when you use it. If you suddenly stop using PCP, the balance of chemicals in your brain changes, which causes the symptoms of withdrawal.

You have a higher risk of becoming dependent on drugs if you:

  • Have a family history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Have abused alcohol or drugs in the past
  • Are easily frustrated, have trouble dealing with stress, or feel like you aren’t good enough
  • Are regularly around people who use alcohol or drugs
  • Have a mental health problem
  • Have constant pain

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of PCP use disorder depend on how much and how often you take the drug. PCP powerfully affects some of the chemicals of the body and brain that change mood and emotions. Extreme reactions can make users act very strange. They can be violent against themselves or others. Occasionally, heart or lung failure can occur.

The symptoms can be mild to severe, and may include:

  • Being irritable and feeling ready for a fight
  • Feelings of suspicion and mistrust
  • An extreme belief in your importance or believing that you have special powers no one else has
  • Exaggerated feeling of happiness
  • An abnormal awareness of sounds
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Being out of touch with reality and believing things that are not true or seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not real
  • Trouble thinking, remembering, and talking
  • Thoughts of suicide

These symptoms can last up to a year after you stop using PCP.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how much and how often you use PCP. Be honest about your drug use. Your provider needs this information to give you the right treatment. He will also ask about your symptoms, medical history and give you a physical exam. You may have tests or scans to help make a diagnosis.

How is it treated?

PCP use disorder can be treated. For any treatment to be successful, you must want to stop using PCP. When you stop using PCP, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help you get through withdrawal symptoms. Do not try to use alcohol and other drugs to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

If you want to quit, get help.

Self-help groups, support groups, and therapy may be helpful. Kinds of therapy may include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps you look at your thoughts, beliefs, and actions, and understand which ones cause problems for you. Then you learn to change unhealthy ways of thinking and acting.
  • Family therapy. Often people with substance use disorders don’t realize they have a problem or aren’t ready to accept treatment. This leaves loved ones frustrated and confused. Family therapy treats all members of the family rather than working with one person alone. It helps the whole family understand each other better and make changes.
  • Substance use disorder treatment programs. Your healthcare providers and counselors will work with you to develop a treatment program. You may be able to go to therapy a few times a week. Or you may need treatment in a hospital or rehab center. You may need to stay there for several weeks, or you may be able to go to a clinic or hospital each day.

Recovery is a long-term process. Many people with substance use disorders try to quit more than once before they finally succeed. Don't give up. You can quit and quit for good. Get help and try again. Follow-up treatment is very important so that you don’t go back to using PCP.

If you have overdosed, or are having severe withdrawal symptoms you will need to be treated in a hospital. You may be given medicine to reduce high blood pressure, control a fast heart rate, or treat seizures.

How can I take care of myself?

The best way to help yourself is to see your healthcare provider and make plans to stop taking PCP. If you are already seeing a healthcare provider, it is important to take the full course of treatment he prescribes.

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax. For example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Don’t use alcohol or drugs. Stay physically active as advised by your provider.
  • Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Take all medicines as directed by your provider or therapist. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicines don't seem to be working.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.

People and resources in your community that can help you include your healthcare providers, therapists, support groups, mental health centers, and alcohol or substance abuse treatment programs.

You may want to contact:

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2017-10-06
Last reviewed: 2017-05-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
Page footer image