The immediate effects of PCP use are similar to drinking for the observer. The user will appear to be intoxicated, or slightly high (like pot). They will exhibit symptoms that include red or puffy eyes, slurred speech, uncoordinated body movements and unbalanced gait. They may have some mild agitation and/or irritation. These are the symptoms that will most often be seen in users under the influence of small quantities of PCP. Users will experience a sense of detachment and separation that may become more pronounced and lead to possible suicide ideation and attempts.
Larger doses will affect users in more severe and obvious ways. They will become extremely agitated and volatile, to the point of sometimes extreme violence, against others or even themselves. Their blood pressure may drop, with pulse and breathing rates becoming shallow. Profuse sweating occurs, as well as drooling, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and up and down movement of the eyes. At very high doses, seizures, coma and death can occur. Psychotic symptoms are common, along with superhuman exhibitions of strength, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions.
PCP has been known to cause severely violent behavior for users. Some have violent behavior toward others, some to themselves. Attempts to harm others are not uncommon, and the user is so detached from reality that they have to be subdued and restrained in order to stop the outbursts. Others may exhibit behaviors of inflicting serious harm to themselves, due to the (illogical) delusion that they are not attached to sensation any longer. Because PCP is an anesthetic, physical sensation may be muted or dulled to the point that they experience little or no pain when seriously injured. Judgment is severely impacted by PCP use and users may attempt to do dangerous and life-threatening behaviors that must be intervened upon.
How PCP Affects Behavior
As it begins to take effect on the brain, PCP may cause hallucinations, delusions and the mistaken belief that the user is disconnected from, not only others, but their own experience. This detachment may cause them to do things that would be highly dangerous to them or others. There is no safe way to estimate the dose of PCP being taken, because the drug is not manufactured legally. Therefore, it is uncertain how much the user is going to ingest at any time. Once under the influence, they may continue to ingest more of the drug, causing an overdose or a dose that does permanent damage to the user.
A sedative used as an anesthetic, PCP dulls the senses of the user to the point that they do not have normal attachment to their behavior or decision making process. The moral compass that would normally drive their decision making and behaviors is broken under the influence of PCP, creating a situation where the user believes they are outside the range of consequences or disconnected from pain/sensation/responsibility and/or rational thought. Life-threatening situations do not have the same alarms that would be triggered when not under the influence of the drug. Risk taking becomes more escalated and behaviors have been known to become extreme when loaded on PCP.
How PCP Affects Your Brain
Initially, PCP will induce symptoms like those of alcohol; speech that is slurred, slowed responses, ungainly physical movement, tripping and falling over, stumbling, etc. With higher doses of PCP or continued use, symptoms increase to radical and complex changes in the brain of the user. Small quantities may produce a high that is relaxed and sloppy. When increased or with a higher dose of PCP, the effects go into the realm of paranoid delusions, violent aggression or panic, hallucinations, and attempting to kill someone else or self. Unpredictable is the word most often used with PCP. Because there is no regulated dose of PCP, the user never knows what they are getting and cannot control for the amount they are using.
Affected are the glutamate receptors of the brain. These receptors are responsible for the sensations of pain, in emotional expression, cognitive processing (learning and memory functions), and PCP most often acts on these receptors to subdue or interrupt their functioning. However, there is also the likelihood that PCP may spark or excite these receptors, in higher doses. This can explain the erratic, irrational behavior seen in frequent users or those who use large quantities.
When PCP was used pharmaceutically, side effects were severe enough that it was discontinued as an anesthetic. Today, there is little use of PCP as a recreational drug.
How PCP Affects Your Body
In high doses, PCP can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels, along with respiratory rates. Breathing may become shallow and rapid, and temperatures increase. Profuse sweating is also present, along with nausea.
Very high doses can cause muscles spasms and contractions severe enough to deform body movement. This can lead to broken bones and severe muscle tears. Because painful sensation may be dulled or disrupted, many who become injured are not aware that their body has incurred an injury. Others who are having hallucinations/delusions have done serious damage to themselves by stabbing, cutting, or forcefully breaking their own bones.
Since the kidneys remove only a small percentage of PCP from the system, toxicity is not uncommon for those who use PCP frequently or in higher doses.