How Long Does PCP Stay in Your System?

PCP (phencyclidine), often referred to as angel dust or fry, is a powerful dissociative hallucinogenic drug that was made in the 1950s as an anesthetic and taken off the market in the 1960s due to a number of severe side effects associated with its use.

This page will cover how PCP is used, how long PCP stays in your system, PCP addiction and PCP detox.

How Is PCP Used?

PCP is available in powder and liquid forms, and it is typically smoked, although it may be injected or snorted as well. The intake method, however, should not have an effect on how long PCP stays in your system and body.

It is often smoked with tobacco or cannabis products, but it may also be added to other substances, such as ginger, parsley, oregano, etc., and smoked. The drug produces very powerful hallucinations, often causing users to feel like they or their surroundings are not real or as if they are leaving their body (dissociative effects).

The drug is classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II controlled substance, indicating that it may have some medicinal uses, but it is an extremely dangerous drug:

  • Its use may result in physical or psychological dependence.
  • The drug is manufactured in very small amounts.
  • Its manufacture and distribution for research purposes are tightly controlled.

PCP has rightfully received the reputation of being a dangerous drug due to its psychoactive effects, side effect profile, and long-term effects. The psychoactive effects of the drug are dose-dependent and can range from stimulation to mild hallucinations to seizures, catatonia, and coma.

Individuals who use PCP often use it in conjunction with other drugs. They may become very aggressive, violent, and feel that they are invulnerable.

How Long Is PCP In Your System?

The estimated PCP half-life is 7-46 hours, with the average PCP half-life in the system being about 21 hours. The half-life of a drug refers to the amount of time that an individual’s metabolism is able to reduce the drug by half its original concentration.

This measure is often used to determine the length of time a specific drug can be estimated to remain in an individual’s system. Drugs that are fat-soluble (lipophilic) will remain in the system longer than drugs that are hydrophilic or water-soluble. PCP is lipophilic.

The elimination of the drug is accomplished over a number of routes, but the primary organ responsible for eliminating drugs is the liver. When the drug is smoked, almost half of it is destroyed by the heat; when it is injected or snorted, this is obviously not the case.

If an individual uses an average amount of PCP based on the average half-life of the drug, it could take a person anywhere from approximately 1.5 days to 10 days to eliminate the drug from the system.

However, some sources suggest that because PCP is fat-soluble, it may be stored in fat cells in the body, and the half-life may be considerably longer (up to 72 hours for most individuals). In this scenario, it would take an individual about 17 days to eliminate PCP from their system.

The half-life of the drug will vary somewhat from individual to individual. The amount of time that a drug stays in a person’s system is dependent on a number of factors, including the particular type of drug being taken.

According to the book Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Abused Drugs, some of these other factors include:

  • The length of the time the individual used the drug, how often they used it, and the amount typically used.
  • Individual variations in metabolism.
  • Individual factors, such as age, body weight, gender, genetics, and liver and kidney functions: Individuals who have urine that is highly acidic eliminate PCP faster than individuals who have less acidic urine.
  • How the drug is taken.
  • Ingestion of other drugs along with PCP: A number of drugs, such as antidepressants, the sleep medication Ambien, and others, affect the metabolism of PCP, and individuals using these drugs along with PCP will retain PCP in their system longer.

Is PCP Addictive?

The question of whether or not a particular drug is “addictive” actually depends on what is meant by the use of the term addictive. This term is often used to insinuate physical dependence (developing both tolerance and withdrawal to some substance).

While the development of physical dependence on a drug may constitute two specific symptoms of a substance use disorder (the current term that is used to designate both substance misuse and substance dependence), it is neither necessary nor sufficient to have both tolerance and withdrawal to a substance in order to have a formal diagnosis of a substance use disorder.

Thus, there are clear diagnostic criteria presented by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that specify the formal signs and symptoms of an individual who has developed a phencyclidine use disorder, meaning that an individual has developed a formal substance use disorder as a result of using phencyclidine (PCP).

Individuals who discontinue PCP may experience a number of emotional symptoms, including:

  • Cravings for the drug.
  • Loss of energy.
  • A general overall feeling of malaise.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Issues with motivation.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sleeping disorders.
  • Weight loss.
  • Issues with memory.

In rare cases, individuals have developed psychotic behaviors and seizures. The development of seizures may be associated with polydrug use. Symptoms may take several days to a week to appear and typically peak within 3-5 days after discontinuation.

Some of the symptoms, such as depression and issues with motivation, have been noted to last as long as a year in some individuals.

Therefore, at the current time, it appears that individuals can certainly develop a substance use disorder as a result of misusing PCP, but they do not develop physical dependence on the drug.

Nonetheless, a number of anecdotal reports suggest that some individuals demonstrate withdrawal-like symptoms when they discontinue using PCP, and animal models of PCP misuse have indicated that animals may develop a withdrawal syndrome to PCP; however, this PCP withdrawal syndrome is not demonstrated in humans in research studies.

In the APA’s diagnostic criteria for phencyclidine use disorder, there is no designation that an individual can develop withdrawal from the drug. This indicates that any PCP withdrawal symptoms associated with the drugs use are most likely emotional and psychological in nature and do not represent a syndrome of physical dependence.

According to APA and other sources, such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), even though use of PCP is most often intermittent in individuals who misuse it, there is research that indicates that individuals who habitually misuse PCP do develop tolerance to the drug (needing more of it to get the same effects once achieved at lower doses).

PCP Detox

ASAM specifies formal withdrawal management protocols for drugs; withdrawal management is a term used for what many refer to as detox or medical detox. Medications can be administered to individuals who have stopped using PCP based on the person’s specific symptom profile in an effort to control those symptoms.

Often, benzodiazepines may be used to deal with anxiety, depression, and even potential seizures in individuals who misused PCP with other drugs. These may be administered by the physician while slowly cutting down the dose at specified intervals to wean the individual off the drug and control the course of the person’s withdrawal.

Because individuals who misuse PCP are likely to misuse other drugs in conjunction with PCP and may have developed physical dependence on those drugs, they may also require specific withdrawal management techniques for those drugs (e.g., alcohol misuse in individuals who misused alcohol with PCP).

Long-term treatment for PCP addiction requires that the individual become involved in formal substance use disorder therapy. The therapy of choice for individuals with substance use disorders is some form of cognitive behavioral therapy; however, other models of therapy can also be used.

Therapy can be delivered in a group format, in individual sessions, or in a combination of group and individual sessions. Delivering therapy in a combination of group and individual sessions take advantage of the strengths of both treatment formats

Individuals who have co-occurring psychological conditions, such as depression, or have more than one substance use disorder would need these issues to be treated concurrently with their phencyclidine use disorder.

Most people require more than going through the discontinuation process to treat a substance use disorder. Research indicates individuals can benefit from being involved in formal treatment for a sufficient length of time so the potential for relapse is reduced to a point where the person is not at a significant risk to relapse in the future.

In addition to therapy, the individual should be involved in social support groups and receive professional management of medical conditions if needed. They should also receive other interventions that are appropriate for the particular case, such as job training, housing placement services, training in social skills, etc.

Treatment for PCP Addiction

Effective treatment is available for PCP addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use and are ready to start treatment, call us today at .

Oxford Treatment Center offers several levels of addiction treatment, including both outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi. Our expert care team customizes treatment to meet your individual needs.

Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions about our rehab facility, how to pay for addiction treatment, and to check if your health insurance covers rehab.

If you’d like to instantly verify your insurance coverage for rehab, simply use our confidential now. Please don’t wait to get the help you deserve.

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