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What is Angel Dust?

Angel Dust is a popular slang term or street name for phencyclidine (PCP). PCP is a powerful dissociative/hallucinogenic drug that can produce strong stimulant effects, hallucinations, delusions, and severely altered states of consciousness.[1]

The drug works by inhibiting the uptake and facilitating the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain to produce stimulant, hallucinogenic, sedative, and depressant effects all at the same time.

Although phencyclidine was initially developed as an anesthetic, it was eventually discontinued because of its severe and habit-forming side effects. However, angel dust abuse has increased in recent decades.

According to the Justice Department, more than 6 million U.S. citizens ages 12 and older have used PCP in their lifetime.[2] PCP abuse is dangerous and addictive, so if you or a loved one are struggling with controlling your PCP use, it is highly recommended to attend a comprehensive treatment program.

Looking at the History of Angel Dust

Phencyclidine was first synthesized in 1956 by Parke-Davis, a pharmaceutical company that is known for producing Adrenalin and Benadryl, as a potential anesthetic or surgical sedative. However, PCP was found to have significant and sometimes life-threatening side effects, including hallucinations, delirium, and violent behavior. As a result, it was withdrawn from the pharmaceutical market in 1965 and was eventually labeled a Schedule II controlled substance, indicating a considerable risk for abuse and dependence.[3]

After phencyclidine was discontinued, ketamine took its place as an anesthetic for surgery and painful procedures because it is structurally similar to PCP.

Despite being made illegal, PCP continued to be used recreationally in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. PCP abuse declined after the 1980s, but it continues to remain a dangerous drug of abuse today.

Angel dust is often sold illegally as a tablet, capsule, liquid, or white powder that can be smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injected, and may be referred to by various street names, including “angel dust” and “rocket fuel.” When smoked, people may mix PCP and marijuana by sprinkling the dust onto their marijuana or by dipping a marijuana or tobacco cigarette in PCP liquid.

Because PCP is not developed pharmaceutically, it is made in clandestine, uncontrolled labs and distributed illegally. As a result, PCP can contain any number of harmful additives and adulterants that come with a variety of added risks. Additionally, because it is sold on the street, it isn’t regulated and it’s impossible to know just how strong the effects will be.

Side Effects of Phencyclidine (PCP)

The effects of angel dust can vary from mimicking a stimulant, anesthetic, or painkiller depending on the dose taken and the individual. Some people report feeling joy and euphoria while others feel panic, anxiety, paranoia, and other scary symptoms such as violent behavior. Others experience hallucinations and delusions that can be indecipherable from reality.

One of the primary effects of PCP t is dissociation, which is a sense of detachment from reality or out-of-body experiences which can manifest as a feeling of floating or being disconnected from one’s body. Dissociation can also lead to the perception of altered time or space, which can be frightening or disorienting, leading to confusion and panic.

The hallucinations PCP causes can be auditory, visual, or tactile and can range from pleasant or entertaining to terrifying and confusing. Delusions, which are false beliefs or ideas, can also occur with angel dust abuse. These delusions can lead to paranoid, violent, or psychotic behavior, which can be dangerous for both the user and those around them.

The effects of PCP appear rapidly after ingestion, with peak effects occurring within 30 minutes of ingestion. The duration of the effects can range from a few hours to several days depending on the method of ingestion. Swallowing or snorting angel dust will result in longer-lasting effects than smoking or injecting.

Other common side effects of angel dust abuse include:[4]

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the limbs
  • Muscle rigidity or spasms
  • Sweating or flushing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired coordination or balance
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain
  • Agitation
  • Distorted signs, colors, sounds, environment, and sense of self

Low to moderate doses are typically linked to stimulant effects while higher doses are linked to depressant effects. In large doses, coma, seizures, and death are possible. These side effects are further enhanced by mixing angel dust with alcohol or other drugs.

Risks and Dangers of Angel Dust Abuse

PCP is a highly dangerous drug that can cause a range of physical and psychological consequences. Regular and repeated angel dust abuse can lead to addiction, which is characterized by physical dependence and compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite negative experiences.

Long-term PCP abuse can also lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, such as:

  • Cognitive impairment – PCP abuse is linked to problems with memory, attention, decision-making, and speech problems.
  • Psychosis and psychotic episodes – PCP can cause persistent psychotic symptoms, such as psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions, even after the drug is no longer in the system. It can also cause flashbacks that make people feel as though they are under the influence of PCP when they really aren’t. PCP flashbacks can be especially crippling if the person’s experience while taking PCP was a negative one.
  • Kidney damage – PCP abuse can increase the risk of kidney damage, potentially resulting in impaired kidney function or failure.
  • Respiratory issues – PCP slows down vital body functions and is a central nervous system depressant, so long-term use can cause respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening.
  • Phencyclidine overdose – Taking too much PCP can cause a severe and life-threatening overdose, which can result in seizures, coma, or death.
  • Mental illness – Prolonged PCP abuse is linked to an increase in social isolation, long-term anxiety, and severe depression.

Mixing angel dust with alcohol or other illicit drugs will likely increase these risks.

Treatment for PCP Abuse and Addiction

People who abuse PCP are often brought to the emergency room while experiencing a psychotic episode or an overdose. If they are willing to accept treatment, their substance abuse and any mental health issues can be treated professionally at a drug and alcohol rehab center.

Treatment may involve:

When people who are physically dependent on PCP stop taking it suddenly, they may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Drug cravings
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased body temperature

Hallucinations, delusions, and agitation are also possible, so individuals should never attempt to detox alone. Medical supervision is highly recommended.

Discuss Your Treatment Options With an Addiction Specialist Today

If you or someone you love are struggling with an addiction to PCP, know that you are not alone and that there is effective treatment available. Here at Next Step Recovery, our dedicated admissions counselors are available 24 hours a day to take your call, assess your needs, and help you find the right detox and treatment program for you. Contact us today to get started.


  1. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Phencyclidine, Retrieved May 2023 from
  2. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) National Drug Intelligence Center: PCP Fast Facts, Retrieved May 2023 from
  3. National Library of Medicine: Phencyclidine/Schizophrenia: One View Toward the Past, The Other to the Future, Retrieved May 2023 from
  4. National Library of Medicine: Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug, Retrieved May 2023 from

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