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The Dangers of Drug-Induced Psychosis

by | Last updated May 24, 2021 at 9:07AM | Published on Mar 9, 2020 | Dual Diagnosis Program

What is Drug-Induced Psychosis

Drug-induced psychosis might seem rare or only the result of severe, heavy drug use. But the truth is that it can result from many common “party drugs.” Most people experiment with these drugs at some point in their lives.

As a result, they should be aware of the risks. When considering the impacts of drug use, many focus on the physical effects, and for a good reason. Medical conditions, like heart failure, dependence, and overdose, are severe and often fatal. But there are also psychiatric impacts of drug use that can be just as severe. Drug-induced psychosis is one of the most extreme examples.

What is Drug-Induced Psychosis?

Drug-induced psychosis occurs when someone experiences hallucinations, delusions, odd behavior, and a break from reality. These symptoms can generally result from drug use, withdrawal, or the combined effect of mental conditions and substance use. Many drugs can cause some form of drug-induced psychosis.

Stimulants, like Adderall, can cause this condition. This phenomenon may occur because stimulants, such as cocaine or Adderall, impact sleep and thought processes. Both prescription and illegal drugs can also result in psychiatric symptoms.

Schizophrenia vs. Drug-Induced Psychosis

Because the symptoms of drug-induced psychosis are so similar to those of schizophrenia, understanding the differences is critical to seek treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder that is characterized by:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Unusual or dysfunctional thoughts
  • Physical agitation
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure
  • Problems with working memory

Most symptoms of schizophrenia arise between the ages of 16 and 30. In sporadic cases, children may also exhibit symptoms. The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America reports that this chronic disease affects approximately 1.1 percent of the global population, and 3.5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with it.

Drug-Induced Psychotic Symptoms

Because hallucinations and delusions are common symptoms of psychosis, it’s often mistaken by schizophrenia. Due to the effects of drugs on the brain, it causes mostly visual hallucinations and deliciousness that prompt a shift in the individual’s consciousness, making it challenging to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

The duration of drug-induced hallucinations depends on various factors. In most cases, symptoms last for more than a few days. However, it also depends on the substance they’re using. For example, magic mushroom effects stay up to 6 hours, while LSD side effects can last up to 14 hours or more.

On the other hand, schizophrenia symptoms can sometimes last weeks or years. Remember, this is a long-term chronic condition that affects the brain directly, and it requires ongoing monitoring to prevent and manage the effects.

Substances That Can Result in Psychosis

Several commonly-used substances can cause psychosis. For example, alcohol withdrawal can cause a condition called “delirium tremens.” This condition results in hallucinations, confusion, shakes, fever, and even fatal seizures. Additionally, marijuana can result in mental health issues. Studies have found that people who use marijuana daily are three times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.

Additionally, risks increase based on the strength of the marijuana and the age someone starts using. The younger you are when you start, the higher the risk. Data also shows that people who have schizophrenia experience higher rates of marijuana use.

It’s unclear whether marijuana increases the risk of psychosis or whether people with mental health conditions are just more likely to use drugs. However, the bottom line is that there appears to be a link between marijuana and psychosis. The truth is that many drugs may impact an individual’s mental health.

Other substances that may cause medication-induced psychotic disorder symptoms are:

Can You Cure Drug-Induced Psychosis?

Unfortunately, no, you can’t. Drug-induced psychosis is not a disease in the traditional sense; it’s the side effects of another disease — addiction. With long-term use of drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and even alcohol, people can struggle with psychosis symptoms that persist well into sobriety.

Because of the nature of psychosis, dual diagnosis programs are critical. People with severe psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia are highly likely to develop substance abuse. Being able to diagnose a co-occurring disorder is vital for devising an effective treatment plan. Especially since some of these, like bipolar disorder, which require prescription drugs to be treated, can make addiction recovery more challenging. In the case of an underlying condition, both issues simultaneously offer the best support and success level for the individual.

Addiction Treatment and Drug Rehabilitation

Generally, the first step in treating mental health conditions caused by drug use is detox or hospitalization. To address the withdrawal symptoms caused by substances, users must be safe, supervised, and tended to by medical professionals.

Following this period, the individual must continue drug or alcohol abuse treatment. Stopping treatment immediately after symptoms subside means that the individual hasn’t addressed the underlying reasons for drug use. Thus, it may place them at risk for relapse and another episode of mental health issues. These conditions require in-depth, diverse approaches.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT can help recovering addicts learn more about the thoughts and moods that they experience before psychotic episodes occur. The purpose of this therapy is to help them learn ways to manage emotions and paranoia more readily and be aware of triggers.

Family Therapy

Having a strong support system is paramount for addiction recovery, even more for those struggling with psychosis. Family therapy can help ensure that there is sufficient support available at home to prevent relapse and manage associated symptoms, potentially reducing the need for extensive hospital treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Suppose, after a dual diagnosis assessment, your substance use disorder results from mental illness, such as a psychotic disorder. In that case, antidepressants, antipsychotics, or other medications such as clozapine may be recommended for an extended period of time, mainly if delusions and hallucinations are frequent or particularly severe. However, to prevent extending the addiction, medication-assisted treatments ensure those in recovery continue their medications under supervised and safety guidelines.

Get Help Today

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we focus on dual diagnosis treatment. We have structured our programs to meet the needs of individuals who struggle with drug abuse and mental health diagnoses, including those experiencing substance-induced psychosis episodes. So, if you need comprehensive care for dual diagnoses, don’t hesitate to call to learn more.

Molly

Molly

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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