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PCP Overview
by Dale Clark
June 14, 1993
Phencyclidine. 1-(1-Phenylcyclohexyl)piperidine; angel dust; HOG; PCP; CI-395. C17 H25 N. US pat. 3,097,136 (1960, 1963 to Parke, Davis). Investigated in 1950s as human anesthetic. Melting point (crystals) 46-46.5F. Melting point (HCl), C17 H26 ClN, 243-244F. Melting point (Hydrobromide) 214-218F. Very stable, not degraded by temperatures normally used in cooking or freezing foods.


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Sernyl, Sernylan.

Orally in imice: 76.5 mg/kg.

PCP has emerged as an important drug of abuse. It is not easily classified and should be considered separately from hallucinogenic drugs. It has a bewildering number of effects in the CNS, and its neuropharmacology is only poorly understood.

PCP was tested in the 1950s because of an ability to isolate humans from noxiouis sensory input (dissociative anesthesia). It was withdrawn because individuals often experienced severe anxiety, delusional states, or frank psychosis postoperatively. Clinical testing stopped in 1962, and PCP appeared as a street drug in 1967. Initially sold deceptively as "THC" in recent years it has established its own market. Although once available as a veterinary anesthetic, essentially all street material results from illegal synthesis, not difficult to perform. Most PCP contaminants result from makeshift manufacture, causing the color to range from tan to brown, and the consistency from a powder to a gummy mass. Although sold in tablets and capsules as well as in powder or liquid form, it is most often applied to a leafy material, such as parsley, mint, oregano, or marijuana and then smoked.

Occasionally injected or ingested, it is most frequently sprinkled on smoking material (parsley, mint leaves, tobacco, marijuana) combusted, and inhaled. In recent years, much random violence and crime has been attributed to users of PCP, although as with past horror stories, this is not often well documented. Since the frequent reports of problems with PCP in 1978, the number of reports has declined significantly. Its current use and the attention directed to that use have declined.

Along with PCP, there are other precursor (those from which the drug is made) or analog chemicals being sold illicitly that have the same or even more devastating effects. The latter (analogs) are chemicals that are similar in nature to PCP - the only difference is that a molecule or two has been changed in the structure. The similar chemicals, created in illicit labs, include: 1-phenylcyclohexylamine, 1-piperidinocyclohexanecarbonitrile (PCC), N-ethyl-1-phenylcyclohexylamine (PCE), 1-(1-phenyl- cyclohexyl)-pyrrolidine (PCP or PHP), and 1-(1-(2-thienyl- cyclohexyl)-piperdine (TPCP or TCP).

A close relative of PCP, ketamine, is an injected anesthetic used medically for special circumstances. Feelings of dissociation occur within 15 seconds after injection, and the patient loses consciousness after about 30 seconds. Unconsciousness lasts for only 10-15 minutes, but amnesia persists for an hour or two and patients recall nothing they experience after regaining consciousness. Vivid and unpleasant dreams, as well as hallucinations occur as the drug wears off. When a user consumes less ketamine than is required for anesthesia, the effects can resemble those of LSD or PCP. The user may lose contact with reality and feel that he is floating in space.

PCP is well absorbed when taken orally, intranasally, or IV, although oral ingestion is the slowest route to the CNS. PCP is stored in fat tissue and brain tissue, so although blood levels peak 1-4 hours after ingestion, PCP can be detected in urine up to 1 week following high dose use. At doses from 1-5 mg, PCP often seems like very potent marijuana. Above 5 mg, the effects are much less predictable. At 20 mg and above, hypertension, muscle rigidity, seizure, depressed breathing, coma and death can occur. Effects of higher doses include a withdrawn catatonic state, ataxia, dysarthria, muscular hypertonicity, and myoclonic jerks. Rotatory nystagmus is often present and helps in making the diagnosis. Cardio- vascular status is usually unaffected. Prolonged psychotic states have apparently followed use of this drug.

In treatment, diazepam (Valium) often is helpful, and is mandatory when seizure activity is present. Some clinicians feel that haloperidol is useful. Diazoxide may be used when severe hypertension is present. PCP is highly lipid-soluble and may have a long biologic persistence. The alkaline character of the drug leads to suprisingly high secretion into the stomach, and prolonged gastric lavage has recovered large amounts of PCP. Lavage must be accompanied by acidification with ammonium chloride (or other agents), because this maneuver results in dramatic ionic trapping in the stomach and urine. Anecdotally, street users may resort to cranberry juice to hasten urinary excretion.

While PCP users may increase the amount of drug they take, there is no clear evidence of tolerance to the drug. Physical dependency has not been demonstrated, although laboratory experiments with animals appear to indicate that such addiction is possible. Psychological dependence is created, and a number of users experience withdrawal symptoms such as physical distress, lack of energy, and depression when they abruptly discontinue PCP use.

Other drugs which interact with PCP are chlorpromazine or like agents, which can cause severe hypotension.

The manufacture of PCP is a two-stage reaction. First, PCC (1-piperidinocyclohexanecarbonitrile) is created by reacting piperidine, cyanide, and cyclohexanone. This product is then reacted with phenylmagnesium bromide to form the final product. The total reaction time for completion requires 16 to 18 hours.

bromobenzeneSolvent, organic synthesis, motor fuel.
cyclohexanoneOrganic preparations, plastics, stains, paint removers, solvent, polish, degreaser.
phenylmagnesium bromide
Organic synthesis.
piperidineSolvent, curing agent in rubber, ingredient in oils and fuels, catalyst.