PCP is phencyclidine (or 1-phencyclohexyl piperidine.) It was first synthesized in 1926 and began to be investigated as a human anesthetic in the mid 1950's. It was marketed as a human anesthetic for a short time, but was removed from the market because its hallucinatory effects were too upsetting to patients. PCP is called a "dissociative" anesthetic, which means that it causes a splitting from reality or from the self.
In the brain, PCP disrupts the functioning of the receptor sites for the neurotransmitter ("messenger" chemical) called glutamate. Glutamate receptors are involved in the perception of pain, thought, learning, memory, and emotion. PCP also alters the actions of dopamine, which is the primary neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and addiction.
PCP is both a hallucinogen and a stimulant. It causes an intense, speeded-up feeling. Many people refuse to use it again after trying it once. It causes feelings of strength, power, invulnerability, and it causes numbing; these effects sometimes cause users to injure themselves. Many users become violent, irrational, or suicidal.
PCP may be a white, tan, or brown powder or a gummy blob, depending on impurities. It also may be sold in tablets, capsules, or liquid. In recent years, PCP has been found most commonly added to marijuana joints, cigarettes, cigars (called "blunts,") or other leaves rolled in cigarette papers.
PCP is often marketed under some other name besides "PCP," perhaps because PCP has such a terrible image.
The street use of PCP rose in the late 1960's. It was placed in Schedule III in the early 70's, and moved to Schedule II in 1978. Schedule II drugs are defined as having a high potential for abuse, some currently accepted medical use (often with severe restrictions,) and high potential for severe psychological or physical dependence.
PCP is also known as Angel Dust, Killer Weed, Embalming Fluid, Rocket Fuel, Crystal, Wet, Water, Wack, Fry, Amp, Formaldehyde, Zoot, and Hog.