What is Angel Dust

Estimated reading time: 30 minute(s)

As substance abuse statistics continue to grow across the country, more and more people are looking for alternative drugs to try. Among the many illicit drugs available on the street, angel dust has gotten the attention of many, particularly due to its strong potential to induce a high. This powerful hallucinogen includes phencyclidine or PCP, which leads to numbness and detachment from reality, making it extremely risky to use on a short- and long-term basis. Hence, it is important to know what angel dust is, how it interacts with the body, the associated risks, and recovery options.

What is Angel Dust: The History

PCP, also known as angel dust, is a popular dissociative drug that can easily mess with a person’s sense of smell, sight, self, sound, and surroundings. Originally developed in the 1950s, PCP was introduced to the community as an anesthetic drug for medical purposes. However, the community was quick to discontinue it in 1979 following the neurotoxic side effects of its use. Medical experts observed that users taking PCP even for legitimate medical purposes became irrational, delusional, and highly agitated. Following this observation, they officially replaced PCP with ketamine, a much safer alternative.

Despite being replaced in the medical world, PCP is still available on the streets under the name of “angel dust.” This white crystalline powder is illicitly available in pure forms and mixed combinations where people add other contaminants and additives to its composition. The drug’s appearance may vary from white to dark brown depending on its purity. Some people smoke or snort the powder, while others mix it in water and inject it into their veins.

Remember that owing to its health risks, angel dust or PCP is currently a Schedule II controlled substance. It has a high risk of addiction and abuse and is illegal across the United States. Nevertheless, many clandestine labs continue to manufacture it and mix it with unknown additives, adding to its side effects.

Side Effects of Angel Dust

Angel dust or PCP can lead to varying yet unpleasant side effects, which may be unique to each individual. It can mess with their state of mind, often to the extent that they may completely dissociate from reality and lose all clarity of thought. This potential of distorting reality and corrupting the ability to separate fantasy from reality makes angel dust one of the most dangerous hallucinogens and the primary reason medical experts boycotted its use.

Mentioned below are some potential side effects of using angel dust:

Loss Of Feeling in Limbs

One of the most common PCP side effects includes the potential loss of sensations and feelings in the legs and arms. While users can still move their extremities, they may find it difficult to feel their bodies or other objects. Such an experience can easily frighten anyone, especially those using angel dust for the first time.

Circumstantial Detachment

Using angel dust alters a person’s sense of reality and makes him confused about the realities at hand by distorting objects, people, and speech perception. In simpler words, the drug can make a person unaware of his loved ones, family members, or general surroundings and make them prone to making irrational decisions that may put them and others around them at risk. Trying to reason with a person still under PCP influence can also put others in danger. Hence, experts warn people not to approach them alone or take matters into their own hands, as PCP intoxication may force users to go to great lengths and do things they would otherwise regret.

Anxiety and Paranoia

Hallucinogens, such as PCP, can commonly trigger anxious feelings and paranoia in users. While under its influence, people may find it impossible to control these bouts of paranoia, leaving them at the drug’s mercy.

Sluggishness & Slurry Speech

PCP can mimic the symptoms of alcohol intoxication, leading to slurry speech, sluggishness, and extreme nausea. The consequent sluggishness can lead to lingering effects that may persist even after most short-term symptoms are over.

Extreme Irritation

Anyone under the influence of PCP can become easily irritable with the slightest trigger. The drug can quickly get under an individual’s skin, especially if they are having a bad experience, making them prone to violence in the most irrational way.

Long-Term PCP Dangers and Side Effects

Once people become habitual in using PCP, they experience various physical and mental side effects. Many of these side effects continue to progress and likely become long-term. Even the short-term impacts can have longer-lasting impacts, even in people using the drug for the first time. These consequences may vary depending on the user’s physical and mental health. Some of these potential consequences of PCP use are mentioned below. Remember that many of them can be irreversible, while others may require medical help to overcome.

Accidental Overdose

The strong psychoactive properties of PCP make it a good candidate to overdose accidentally, leading to coma, hyperventilation, or even death. The potency of angel dust on the street can vary depending on how concentrated it is and whether or not it is mixed with other psychoactive substances. Other signs of an overdose on angel dust may include nausea, pale complexion, shallow breathing, sudden decrease or increase in blood pressure or heart rate, increased sweating or perspiration, etc.

If you or someone around you is exhibiting signs of angel dust overdose, seek urgent medical help immediately. Ignoring these symptoms may potentially prove fatal.

Feeling Indestructible

The strong euphoric effects of PCP can make anyone feel indestructible, forcing them to pursue activities that may potentially harm them. Many people feel like anything is physically possible for them when they are under the drug’s influence and may attempt dangerous feats that no one would consider in a sober state. These feelings are why many accidental suicides are closely related to drug use.  

Permanent Health Risks

The short-term effects of angel dust described above can put extra strain on many vital organs of the body, such as the lungs, heart, and others. This excessive strain consequently increases the risk of acquiring respiratory distress, heart disease, heart attacks, and other serious ailments. All these conditions can be extremely dangerous, and many become irreversible if no medical help is sought.


As mentioned before, using PCP can remove the sense of logical reasoning from a user. It may also fill their minds with false images that sometimes appear more real than life, exacerbating confusion. In some people, these perceptions can push them to the extent that they may self-harm.


The highly addictive properties of PCP were why medical experts blacklisted it from being used in medical procedures. The strong psychoactive properties can easily make anyone dependent on it and force them to keep using it to enjoy the “high.” What makes things worse is that once addiction sets in, getting off the drug on your own may become difficult without risking your health. Hence, experts strongly suggest taking help from an addiction treatment center to slowly wean off angel dust without exacerbating pre-existing conditions or creating new ones.

Mental Health Problems

PCP or angel dust can severely harm the brain, especially in people who have been using it for a long time. It disrupts and destabilizes the neuronic functions, sometimes leading to various mental health problems. These problems may include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or more.

What is Angel Dust Addiction and How to Seek Help For It

Certain groups are generally more susceptible to using and abusing angel dust or other hallucinogenic agents. However, this does not mean that others are immune to developing an addiction to it. Following people are more likely to experiment with and possibly develop an addiction to PCP of angel dust:

  • People with an underlying mental health disorder, such as bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.
  • Young adults
  • People who easily give in to peer pressure
  • Trauma survivors
  • Impulsive individuals
  • People who have already experimented with other hallucinogenic drugs

The short- and long-term side effects of PCP abuse can be very serious. Many of these individuals not only risk developing a psychological dependence but also acquire lifelong physical symptoms. Owing to its strong psychoactive properties, PCP can also be extremely addictive and may cause serious withdrawal symptoms in people who try to quit it. Some of these withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Strong drug cravings
  • Irritability
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Amnesia
  • Anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders
  • Memory loss

This PCP withdrawal effects and other difficulties related to angel dust use, such as speech difficulties, depression, and weight loss, often require hospitalization and addiction support. Joining a facility that delivers expert addiction treatment in a safe and effective environment can be the best way to get through this difficult phase without putting your body at risk of developing any PCP dangers.


What is sherm, and is it any different from angel dust?

Many people today are mixing PCP or angel dust with marijuana to enhance the effects of both agents. This combination goes by different names, such as sherm, illy, wet, or fry, and can significantly heighten the combined psychoactive effect on the body. However, it is crucial to remember that using PCP with marijuana can lead to unpredictable and intense effects while increasing the risk of dangerous situations involving confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, etc. Experts strictly advise against using sherm as it can be hazardous and even increase the risk of an overdose.

How long does angel dust stay in the system?

Various factors play a role in determining how long PCP or angel dust can stay in a person’s system, such as the dose, frequency of use, total duration of use, and their metabolism. In general, the substance remains positive for detection in urine for up to 3 weeks after the last dose. Its blood levels remain in detectable ranges for 24 to 48 hours following the last dose. Some people may also test positive for angel dust in their saliva for one to ten days following the last dose. Remember that these time frames are estimates only and may vary from one person to another. Additionally, drug tests are not always 100% accurate, i.e., they may provide false-positive or false-negative results that may not accurately provide the correct history of use.

How long do the effects of PCP last?

The effects of PCP can last for varying time frames, depending on individual body weight, tolerance, dose, etc. The onset of these effects is generally quicker as most people start feeling the effects within 2 to 5 minutes of using angel dust. Mixing the powder and injecting it into the veins can lead to even faster effects, whereas taking PCP in a tablet form orally may delay the onset up to an hour after consuming the dose. The consequential effects typically last several hours, and their duration and intensity can vary depending on the route of administration and total dose. Someone who has taken a low dose may experience milder effects that subside within a few hours than someone who consumed it in a much higher dose with potentially longer-lasting euphoric effects.

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