What Is Angel Dust? Side Effects, Use, and Risks

Angel dust is one of the common street names for the drug PCP (phencyclidine). It is also called a peace pill, dust, ozone, embalming fluid, or rocket fuel. It can dramatically alter your state of mind and cause hallucinations.1 It is also known as a dissociative drug.2

It is typically sold as a loose white powder that can be snorted or mixed into a liquid. It is also used in pill form and sometimes people sprinkle it on leafy substances, like mint or marijuana, to smoke. As a hallucinogen, PCP or angel dust can cause a person to see distorted images and affects their coordination and speech. High doses can cause violent outbursts, vomiting, drooling, or even seizures.

What Is Angel Dust and How Is It Used?

Phencyclidine was originally developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic. However, its medical use was stopped in 1967 after doctors realized it had serious neurotoxic side effects. In its place, doctors developed ketamine, which is chemically similar to PCP.

Today, angel dust is an illegal schedule II controlled substance. Anyone caught producing, distributing, possessing, or using the drug runs the risk of being sent to prison. It is illegally produced in secret laboratories and distributed as a street drug.

Many people turn to hallucinogenic drugs like angel dust to experience a detached state, deal with stress, or experience what they believe is a heightened sense of being. Researchers are studying the use of some hallucinogens as a treatment for perceptual distortions including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.3

While many people snort or ingest angel dust in pill form, it is also frequently combined with marijuana. In this form, it is commonly known as killer joints, whacko tobacco, or superweed. When smoked, the powdered PCP is usually dissolved in ether, a highly flammable solvent, and then sprayed onto whatever the person wants to combine it with, like marijuana, mint, or parsley.

Some users use a liquid form of PCP and inject it intravenously into their bodies. With this method, the drug starts taking effect within 2 to 5 minutes.5

Once taken, the effects of angel dust last between 4 and 6 hours. People can lose their inhibitions and see things that are not there. Some users even believe they have superhuman strength. While their strength does not actually increase, they may do things like punch through windows because they cannot feel the pain. This can lead to dangerous activities, injury, or even death.

According to the 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, about 7.1 million people reported taking some type of hallucinogen, including PCP, within the past 12 months. Of those people, about 372,000 reported a hallucinogen use disorder.4

Angel Dust Side Effects

As a dissociative drug, angel dust works by altering the action of glutamate in the brain. Glutamate is an important brain chemical for processing emotions and in the perception of pain. Angel dust also affects the transmission of dopamine. This causes the euphoric “rush” associated with many illicit drugs. It can cause some people to experience a floating sensation, like they are detached from their bodies.2

If someone experiences a hallucination, they believe the things they see, feel, and hear are real. This distorted reality can lead to dangerous actions a person would not normally take.

PCP has many possible side effects:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • A feeling of distance from your environment
  • Anxiety
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty moving
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of balance
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

The side effects of angel dust will depend on the dose you take. The higher the dose, the more severe the side effects will be.1

Long-Term Effects of Angel Dust

There has been little systematic investigation into the long-term effects of using angel dust. However, the available research does show that extended use of PCP and other dissociative drugs can lead to drug tolerance and a potential substance use disorder that includes signs of withdrawal when drug use is halted.2

There are additional long-term effects of angel dust:

  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Persistent speech problems
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Social withdrawal

These effects can persist for years even when no longer taking angel dust.2

You can experience more serious side effects if you mix PCP with other drugs or alcohol. PCP dissolves easily in alcohol, which can lead to a potentially deadly combination. Alcohol is a depressant and PCP is a sedative. When mixed, these two types of drugs can lead to serious side effects, like the following:2

  • Erratic behavior
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Seizures
  • Feelings of dissociation from time and place
  • Liver infection
  • Respiratory distress
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Death

Angel Dust Withdrawal, Dependence, & Addiction

While some hallucinogens are not considered addictive, PCP, or angel dust, is an exception. Repeated use can lead to a PCP tolerance, which leads to needing higher doses to experience the same effects.

If you continue to routinely use angel dust, you can become physiologically dependent on its effects, meaning you require the drug to function. This dependence can progress into an addiction where you cannot control your use and may experience long-term harmful consequences.5

If you try to stop using angel dust, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.6 These may include:1, 6

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

If you or someone you know is experiencing an addiction to angel dust, you should seek addiction treatment. The first step in recovery is recognizing you have a problem.

Treatment Options for Angel Dust Addiction

Most angel dust addiction treatment programs will use behavioral therapy to help you recognize the causes and triggers for your addictive behavior. If you are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, you may need to stay at an in-patient treatment facility. There, your health will be continually monitored so your body and mind can safely work through PCP withdrawal.

There may be some medicines available to treat your withdrawal symptoms. However, there are currently no medications available to block or reduce the effects of angel dust.

Treatment usually includes counseling sessions with loved ones who are there to support you through your recovery. A support system after treatment is important in helping prevent relapse.

For the best additional recovery, do not stop your treatment program early. Focus on new activities that can replace your previous association with angel dust. You may want to stop seeing people who are still using angel dust as this could trigger a relapse. Taking care of your body by eating healthy food and exercising regularly can help you heal from the dangerous effects of angel dust.

Overdose Risk, Signs, & Treatment

It is possible to overdose on angel dust or PCP. This happens when you take too much angel dust at one time or multiple doses within a short time period.

Signs of a PCP overdose may include:7

  • Agitation
  • Catatonic trance
  • Altered state of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Uncontrolled movement
  • Side-to-side eye movements
  • Lack of coordination

If you suspect you or someone you know has overdosed on PCP or angel dust, call 911. Another option is to call the national Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222. If someone has used PCP and they are acting agitated, do not try to approach them. A person experiencing a PCP overdose can have violent outbursts towards themselves or others as they could be having intense hallucinations.

Receive Treatment for Angel Dust

Treatment is available for anyone having trouble with angel dust. Angel dust is a dangerous drug with potentially deadly effects. Our facilities are available to you or a loved one for support, treatment, and care. We offer expert treatment and care that can start your healing journey.

Contact us today to speak with a treatment specialist and begin your journey to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Angel Dust

What Does Angel Dust Look Like?

As a street drug, PCP is often sold as a white powder. However, it also comes as a liquid, tablet, or capsule.

What Is a PCP Flashback?

One side effect of a PCP is something called a flashback. This is when someone feels the effects of PCP, days, weeks, or even months after last using it.

What Is Angel Dust Made Of?

Angel dust is synthetically produced in a lab. It does not occur naturally. It is sold on the street as a white powder that is easily dissolved in liquid. It is also available as a pill.

What Does Angel Dust Do?

Angel dust is known as a hallucinogen and a dissociative drug. It distorts reality and causes people to see and hear things that are not there. People who use angel dust can feel very disconnected from their environment.

What Are the Side Effects of Angel Dust?

Along with causing hallucinations, angel dust can block pain, other emotions, and memory loss. It can also cause body numbness, increased heart rate, and mood problems.

Can You Die from Taking Angel Dust?

While overdose deaths from angel dust are rare, accidental deaths from doing dangerous activities while high on angel dust are more common.

Resources

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, August 20). Commonly Used Drugs Charts. National Institutes of Health.

2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, June 2). What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs On the Brain and Body? National Institutes of Health.

3U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, June 1). Why Do People Take Hallucinogenic or Dissociative Drugs? National Institutes of Health.

4SAMHSA. (2021, October 21). 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases.

5U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, May 10). Substance use – phencyclidine (PCP): Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus.

6U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, November 2). Hallucinogens DrugFacts. National Institutes of Health.

7U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2022, March 21). Phencyclidine overdose: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus.

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