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How Long Does PCP Stay in Your System? (Blood, Urine, & More)

Phencyclidine, or PCP, is a hallucinogenic drug that works by binding to the endorphin and enkephalin opioid receptors. The effects kick in within a few minutes of taking the drug, depending on how it is ingested, and those effects may continue to some degree for weeks.

Available on the black market only, the drug is sold in the form of capsules, liquid, or white powder. There are various methods of ingestion, including:

  • Snorting the drug
  • Swallowing the capsules or liquid
  • Injecting the liquid or dissolved powder
  • Dropping the liquid into the eyes with a dropper
  • Smoking the powder in a pipe or by lacing a marijuana or tobacco cigarette with it
  • Dipping a cigarette or joint into the liquid before smoking it

PCP is not legally manufactured or sold even for medicinal use in the United States, even though it is classified as a Schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and has been used recreationally since the 1960s. PCP is known for causing feelings of invincibility and super strength among its users, causing high rates of overdose death and fatal accidents born of the idea that it is possible to fly or fight off people believed to be attackers.

It is important to note that there is no safe level of use when it comes to PCP. Any dose can trigger a deadly accident or addiction. It is not possible to predict what dose will cause the hallmark sense of dissociation or disconnectedness from the body and the environment, especially when PCP is used in combination with other substances.

What Is the Half-Life of PCP?

pcp pills

Depending on the source, the half-life of PCP has been reported to be between seven and 46 hours, between 11 hours and 51 hours, or up to three days. The reason why there is no single solid answer on the subject is that the time it takes to rid the body of PCP varies significantly from person to person.

Not only does the drug tend to be stored in fatty tissue, which causes it to take longer to be flushed from the system, but there is also a range of factors that can slow down the process. They are:

  • Metabolic rate
  • Weight and age
  • The presence of ongoing medical conditions that may affect the processing of the drug out of the system, especially as related to the liver or the kidneys
  • The presence of mental health disorders that may be similar in effect to the psychosis triggered by PCP abuse
  • Amount of last PCP dose
  • The potency of PCP used
  • How frequently the drug is used and at what dose
  • What other substances of abuse are also being used during active PCP abuse and in the days following

In short, depending on individual circumstances, the actual PCP half-life experienced can vary from a few hours to a few days or longer.

How Long Does It Take to Get PCP Completely Out of the Body?

Because the half-life of PCP varies significantly, the amount of time that it will take to thoroughly flush the drug from the body also varies. A few weeks or more is the average, but it can take far longer, especially if the individual has low metabolism, a high body mass index, co-occurring disorders of the liver or kidneys, and/or long-term, high-dose use of PCP.

How Long Is PCP Detectable in Urine, Blood, and Hair Samples for Drug Tests?

Again, these numbers can vary, but in general, PCP is detectable in drug tests as follows:

  • Urine sample drug test: With a low dose or irregular use, PCP is detectable for up to a week, but heavy or high-dose use may be detected in a urine sample for up to a month or longer. 
  • Blood sample drug test: Typically, PCP is detectable in a blood sample for less than 24 hours.
  • Hair sample drug test: Saliva tests can show the presence of PCP for up to 10 days after last use. 

Are Withdrawal Effects a Problem When You Stop Taking PCP?

Yes. It is normal to experience a range of physical symptoms that can be uncomfortable in the first weeks after stopping use of the drug. These may be more severe with long-term use of PCP or high-dose usage. They may include the following:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Disrupted eating habits
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Higher body temperature
  • Seizures

The psychological effects of PCP are most difficult to manage, however. These can include:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

In some cases, low doses of a benzodiazepine may be administered in the medical setting, but because benzos are also addictive, it is more likely that the individual will be prescribed antidepressant medications to address psychological symptoms. It can take time to find the right dose, the right medication or the right combination of medications, and for the drug to build up to an effective level. Because the impact on the reward system can be so brutal, lasting for up to a year or more, it is worth it to invest the time and find what works.

Is It Possible to Quit PCP Cold Turkey?

If addiction is driving the use of PCP and/or other substances, it is not possible to simply stop using the drug and never look back. It may be possible to stop using the drug for long enough to pass a drug test, but because the process can be psychologically disturbing, it is not recommended. Not only is it difficult to avoid relapse during the first weeks after stopping the use of PCP due to depression and hallucinations, but it can also increase the risk of self-harm.

What Is the Best Way to Stop Using PCP?

enrolling into rehab

The safest and most efficient way to stop using PCP for any purpose when living with an addiction is to enroll in reputable drug rehab. An addiction treatment program that offers a comprehensive medical detox program as well as round-the-clock care to assist with emergent medical or psychiatric needs as they arise is a must for the first few weeks of treatment.

Depression and other related symptoms can continue for up to six weeks or longer. Many people struggle with these issues acutely in the first year of recovery. For this reason, long-term inpatient rehab is recommended for up to a year as needed.

Just as the experience of PCP detox and ridding the body of the drug can vary from person to person, it is important to apply a trial process to identifying the types of therapies that will be most effective during detox and beyond. Some therapies that have been identified as effective in the treatment of addiction to all substances, including PCP, are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Support groups
  • Family therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Long-term aftercare and support

Traditional talk therapies, alternative therapies that are experiential in nature, and holistic therapies can all play a role in helping clients to take positive strides toward a new life in recovery. When combined with medical detox, assistance with legal issues if necessary, job skills support, and family therapy, treatment is the best possible route for putting use and abuse of all substances in the past.

Sources

(2017) Phencyclidine Use Disorder. Substance and Nonsubstance Related Addiction Disorder: Diagnosis and Treatment. from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=y8uZDgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA168&dq=PCP+addiction&ots=FhYtFsxxmd&sig=1rkG43urbiHKRdAhu1Da0rYEG5A#v=onepage&q=PCP%20addiction&f=false

Controlled Substances Schedules. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division. from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/#define

PCP Fast Facts: Questions and Answers. National Drug Intelligence Center. from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs4/4440/4440p.pdf

(February 2015) What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body? National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/what-are-effects-common-dissociative-drugs-brain-body

Neuroscience for Kids: PCP (Phencyclidine). University of Washington. from https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/pcp.html

(2007) Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug. The California Journal of Emergency Medicine. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859735/

(October 2017) What is phencyclidine (PCP), or angel dust? Medical News Today. from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305328.php

(December 2018) Why the PCP Detection Timetable Depends on Many Variables. Verywell Mind. from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-pcp-stay-in-your-system-80301

(October 2016) Mental Health Medications: Anti-Depressants. National Institute of Mental Health. from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml#part_149856

(July 2018) The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics. National Institute on Drug Abuse. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics

(2018) Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Psychostimulants on Social Behavior and Spontaneous Locomotion. Morehead State University. from https://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/postersatthecapitol/2005/Morehead/5/

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