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First Aid for Phencyclidine Overdose

Last updated Feb. 20, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Phencyclidine Overdose is the accidental or intentional intake of the drug in a high dosage.

What is Phencyclidine Overdose?

  • Phencyclidine (PCP) is a recreational addictive drug that belongs to a class of hallucinogens. It acts as both a stimulant and a depressant
  • This illicit drug is available in liquid form or powder form and is usually snorted or smoked; but, it can also be ingested or injected
  • Phencyclidine Overdose is the accidental or intentional intake of the drug in a high dosage
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Phencyclidine Overdose may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Angel Dust Overdose (Phencyclidine Overdose)
  • Embalming Fluid Overdose (Phencyclidine Overdose)
  • Hog Overdose (Phencyclidine Overdose)
  • Lovely Overdose (Phencyclidine Overdose)
  • PCP Overdose
  • Rocket Fuel Overdose (Phencyclidine Overdose)
  • Sernyl Overdose
  • Wack Overdose (Phencyclidine Overdose)

What are the Causes of Phencyclidine Overdose?

  • Phencyclidine Overdose is caused by an intake of the street drug phencyclidine in a dosage that leads to severe and/or life-threatening side-effects
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • PCP may be taken in pure form or mixed with other illegal drugs including marijuana
  • It is sold on the streets as Angel Dust, Embalming Fluid, Hog, Lovely, Rocket Fuel, Wack, among others

Note: The drug can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of the drug or other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects (such as an overdose).

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Phencyclidine Overdose?

The signs and symptoms of Phencyclidine Overdose can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. Several systems of the body, such as the nervous system and vascular system, may be affected.

The signs and symptoms of Phencyclidine Overdose may include:

  • Increased nervousness, violent behavior
  • Dizziness, confusion, hallucinations
  • Rapid sideways movement of the eye
  • Irregular heart-rate, depressed breath rate
  • Lack of coordination, unsteadiness
  • Affected individual is immobile and does not respond in any manner (called catatonic trance)
  • Feeling dizzy or being unconscious
  • Seizures
  • Coma

How is First Aid administered for Phencyclidine Overdose?

First Aid tips for Phencyclidine Overdose:

  • If the individual with Phencyclidine Overdose is in a coma, or is experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 911 (or your local emergency help number) immediately
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as dosage, type of drug taken, strength and time of ingestion of medication, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Take individual to emergency room for further treatment
  • Always try to take the substance bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Administer activated charcoal to avoid absorbance of drug in the body (if the drug is orally ingested)
  • Medically manage serious symptoms, such as seizures and irregular heart rate
  • Also, relieve respiratory distress with an artificial respirator and administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Some of the actions of the overdosed individual may be dangerous to themselves and to others, who administer to them. Hence, in many cases, the affected individuals are placed in restraints and sedated, to prevent hurting themselves or others nearby. The patients are also placed in a quiet and dark room to help them recover better.

Who should administer First Aid for Phencyclidine Overdose?

First aid for Phencyclidine Overdose is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who overdosed, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

Note: Since the affected individual may become violent and pose a threat to themselves and to others, it is better to seek the assistance of trained professionals in case of a suspected PCP Overdose.

What is the Prognosis of Phencyclidine Overdose?

  • The prognosis of Phencyclidine Overdose is dependent on the amount of drug consumed, time between overdose and treatment, as well as general health status of the patient
  • Generally, recovery from the symptoms may take many weeks, even with appropriate medication and timely support. The outcome may be unpredictable
  • In case of severe symptoms including abnormal heart rhythms, renal failure, seizures, and coma, it may considerably worsen the outcome. Severe cases of overdose are known to be fatal

In general, overdoses are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Phencyclidine Overdose be Prevented?

Phencyclidine Overdose can be prevented by:

  • Avoid illegal drugs, since they are highly-addictive and dangerous
  • Seek help at a rehabilitation center, if addicted to such recreational drugs
  • Keep drugs out of reach of children, in suitable child-proof containers

It is important to give your healthcare provider a complete list of prescription and non-prescription medications that are being currently taken. This will help them in assessing the possible drug interactions within various medications and help avoid/prevent accidental or unintentional toxic drug effects.

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, dosage and time of administration of medication
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 30, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 20, 2018