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Phencyclidine is commonly called PCP or angel dust. It is a recreational, dissociative drug. Before the advent of other medical drugs it had been used as an anaesthetic. Users exhibi hallucinogenic and neurotoxic effects. Developed in 1926, it was first patented in 1952 by the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company and marketed under the brand name Sernyl.

PCP works primarily blocks the activity of the NMDA receptor. Other NMDA receptor antagonists include ketamine, tiletamine, and dextromethorphan. Although the primary psychoactive effects of the drug lasts for a few hours, the total elimination rate from the body typically extends 8 days or longer.

PCP inhibits depolarization of neurons and interferes with cognitive and other functions of the nervous system. The most troubling clinical effects are likely produced by the indirect action of phencyclidine on the presynaptic dopamine receptor. This has been suggested to account for most of the psychotic features. The relative immunity to pain is likely produced by indirect interaction with the endogenous endorphin and enkephalin system in rats.

Phencyclidine has also been shown to cause schizophrenia-like changes in the rat brain, which are detectable both in living rats and upon necropsy examination of brain tissue. It also induces symptoms in humans that are virtually indistinguishable from schizophrenia.

PCP was first synthesized in 1926, and later tested after World War II as a surgical anesthetic. Because of its adverse side effects, such as hallucinations, mania, delirium, and disorientation, it was shelved until the 1950s.

PCP comes in both powder and liquid forms (PCP base is dissolved most often in ether), but typically it is sprayed onto leafy material such as cannabis, mint, oregano, parsley, or ginger leaves, then smoked. PCP is a Schedule II substance in the United States and a Class A substance in the United Kingdom.

The term "embalming fluid" is often used to refer to the liquid PCP in which a cigarette is dipped, to be ingested through smoking, commonly known as "boat" or "water." Smoking PCP is known as "getting wet." A tobacco or cannabis cigarette dipped in PCP is called by the street names "sherm stick," "sherm," "fry stick," "amp," "toe tag", "dippa", "happy stick," and "wet stick." The slang term "embalming fluid" likely originated from PCP's somatic "numbing" effect and the feeling of physical dissociation from the body. This is one of the fastest growing means of using PCP, especially in the western United States where its is sold for about $10 to $25 per cigarette.

In its pure (base) form, PCP is a yellow oil. Upon treatment it precipitates into white - tan crystals or powder. In this form, PCP can be inhaled, depending upon the purity. However, most PCP on the illicit market contains a number of contaminants as a result of makeshift manufacturing, causing the color to range from tan to brown, and the consistency to range from powder to a gummy mass. These contaminants can range from unreacted piperidine and other precursors, to carcinogens like benzene and cyanide.

Behavioural effects can vary by dosage. Small doses produce a numbness in the extremities and intoxication, characterized by staggering, unsteady gait, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and loss of balance. Moderate doses will produce analgesia and anesthesia. High doses may lead to convulsions.

Psychological effects include severe changes in body image, loss of ego boundaries, and depersonalization. Hallucinations and euphoria are reported infrequently.

The drug has been known to alter mood states in an unpredictable fashion, causing some individuals to become detached, and others to become animated. Intoxicated individuals may act in an unpredictable fashion, driven by their delusions and hallucinations.

Included in the portfolio of behavioral disturbances are acts of self-injury including suicide, and attacks on others or destruction of property. The analgesic properties of the drug can cause users to feel less pain, and persist in violent or injurious acts as a result. Recreational doses of the drug can also induce a psychotic state that resembles schizophrenic episodes which can last for months at a time with toxic doses. Users generally report an "out-of-body" experience where they feel detached from reality, or one's consciousness seems somewhat disconnected from consensus reality.

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