The word psychosis can be daunting and scary for many people. Yet, nearly half of cocaine abusers or cannabis addicts report experiencing psychotic symptoms during withdrawal. Around 1 in every 100 people will experience at least one episode of psychosis in their lifetimes. The signs of drug-induced psychosis temporarily cause someone to look at the world differently from those around them — and not in a good way.
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What’s Drug-Induced Psychosis?
Psychosis is often an episode of delusions and hallucinations that cause someone to feel far removed from reality. Drug-induced psychosis, or stimulant psychosis, happens when someone experiences a psychotic episode due to substance abuse. This includes the onset of an underlying mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
When someone struggles with a co-occurring disorder, it makes it all that much difficult to diagnose. To rule out a drug-induced psychosis, symptoms must be directly related to drug intoxication or detoxification instead of recognizing signs of a mental illness itself.
Most people who experience a drug-induced psychosis have a greater chance of having further psychotic episodes in the future. If there’s an untreated mental illness, further substance abuse will worsen the symptoms.
Common Signs of Drug-Induced Psychosis
The symptoms of drug-induced psychoses can vary significantly from patient to patient. The rug’s toxicity, the frequency, and the dosage of the drugs can increase the severity of the symptoms. Those with an underlying mental illness can also experience extreme paranoia and speed up the onset of other mental health disorders like schizophrenia.
Delusions can take on many forms. Overall, it is a sense of belief that something is happening that isn’t reflective of the real world. It almost feels as if you’re living in a movie. People report experiencing someone is after them, that they have magical powers, they’ve made a significant discovery, or even that their romantic partners are being unfaithful, even when there’s no evidence of this.
Whether visual or auditory, hallucinations are distorted sensory perceptions of what’s happening. Sometimes people experience hallucinations related to smell and touch.
Hallucinations can be hearing voices, including voices giving people actions or coursing them to make decisions. Visual hallucinations include seeing shadows, altered objects, and people that aren’t really there. Hallucinations can be very distressing and challenging to process.
Drugs That Cause Psychosis & Their Symptoms
For someone with underlying mental illness, some drugs can make the symptoms of psychosis worse. The most common drugs that cause psychosis include:
- Methamphetamine: can cause paranoia, delusions, and auditory and visual hallucinations.
- Cannabis: many studies link cannabis use with psychosis, suggesting that people who start using cannabis before the age of 18 are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia than those not using cannabis.
- Cocaine: almost half of those who use cocaine will experience psychosis symptoms after using; delusion is the most common side effects. Sometimes psychosis symptoms can persist for days or even months after someone stops taking the drug.
- Psychedelic drugs: drugs like LSD are known for producing hallucinogenic effects almost immediately. With prolonged use, however, these symptoms can become more long-lasting and frequent.
- Prescription drugs: when misused, some prescription drugs can cause substance-induced psychosis, particularly among those with long-term drug addiction problems.
- Party drugs: drugs like ecstasy can cause short episodes of psychosis, even after one use. For those with an antisocial personality disorder, it increases their risk of experiencing panic attacks.
- Alcohol: alcohol abuse can cause delusions and mental confusion. These symptoms are often temporary, but it can worsen underlying mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
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Treatment Options Available
The first step to treat drug-induced psychosis involves a detox process. Eliminating the drug’s use is critical to understand if this is a case of drug-induced psychosis or if there’s an underlying mental health condition that also plays a role. However, trying to detox alone can be life-threatening as psychosis symptoms may worsen. This is why a medically-assisted detox program is critical to prevent unfavorable side effects of the withdrawal process.
After detox, a comprehensive treatment program that targets substance abuse, in conjunction with any mental health issues, is needed to achieve long-term recovery. Usually, an inpatient treatment program can give people the support and surveillance they need to safely start the healing process.
After detox, psychotherapy can help people understand their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions before psychotic episodes. Through practical therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and other methods, patients can learn how to manage these emotions and become more aware of different triggers.
Consequently, psychotherapy can help someone address toxic behaviors and their substance abuse disorder, to start living a substance-free lifestyle, and maintain sobriety in the long term.
Whether someone is experiencing only drug-induced psychosis or they’re also struggling with mental illness, it’s common for them to feel isolated and misunderstood. Group therapy offers a safe and encouraging environment to discuss emotions, challenges, and fears.
Unlike support groups, a group therapy session is led by a licensed therapist or counselor who will guide the group through a set of activities and prompts to help them heal collectively.
Substance abuse and psychosis can destroy a family’s unit, leaving those in rehab feeling alone and without support. Family therapy can help ensure relationships are mended and that patients can go home to a supportive environment with the tools to prevent relapse and manage symptoms.
We know that family members aren’t always emotionally available to participate in family therapy, but we always encourage participation and involvement to reduce the need for extensive treatment.
For those with an underlying mental illness that features psychotic episodes, an antidepressant or antipsychotic medication may be recommended. In this case, especially for those recovering from a substance use disorder, a medication-assisted treatment plan can help people receive the medicines they need under a controlled environment to prevent misuse and abuse of the drugs.
Finding Help Near Me
The signs and symptoms of psychosis can be scary, life-threatening, and isolating. However, help is available, and various evidence-based treatment options can work. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness, please reach out.
Our mental health and addiction specialists are available to help plan a comprehensive treatment approach that caters to your unique needs and symptoms. Don’t let drug-induced psychosis take your life away; find treatment today.