NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) describes psychosis as a condition where a person experiences a disconnection from reality, which often involves, but is not limited to, delusions – strongly held mistaken beliefs despite contradictory evidence – and hallucinations. Statistically, around 4% of people will go meet the diagnostic criteria for a primary psychotic disorder at some point in their life.
Psychosis that arises as a result of substance use is termed drug induced psychosis or substance-induced psychotic disorder. This condition can stem from excessive use of a drug, negative interactions between drugs, withdrawal symptoms, or pre-existing mental health conditions.
While it is not accurate to say that drug use can spontaneously cause a severe mental illness in an individual with no prior history, existing mental health issues can increase the likelihood of substance abuse, and intoxication can precipitate a psychotic episode in those who are susceptible.
Read on to learn:
What is drug induced psychosis?
Drug induced psychosis vs schizophrenia: what’s the difference?
Can drug induced psychosis be permanent?
Drug-Induced Psychosis Symptoms
Signs of drug-induced psychosis, a specific form of psychosis triggered by substance use, may include:
Hallucinations: Experiencing sensory perceptions that have no external cause, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there. Drug induced hallucinations can be unnerving and potentially dangerous.
Delusions: Strongly held beliefs that are not grounded in reality, often involving misinterpretations of experiences or perceptions.
Disorganized thinking: Difficulty organizing thoughts, speaking in a way that is hard to follow, or jumping between unrelated topics.
Paranoia: Drug induced paranoia involves intense and irrational mistrust or suspicion, which can be extreme and without basis.
Altered behavior: Unusual or erratic behavior that is out of character, which may include agitation or hyperactivity.
Confusion: Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions, which can make everyday tasks challenging.
Mood swings: Rapid and intense emotional changes that seem inappropriate to the situation or environment.
The symptoms of substance induced psychosis can be distressing and disorienting, not only to the person experiencing them but also to those around them. If someone is showing signs of drug-induced psychosis, seek medical attention immediately, as this condition can be reversible with appropriate treatment.
How Long Does Drug-Induced Psychosis Last?
The duration of drug-induced psychosis varies depending on several factors, including the type of substance used, the amount consumed, the person’s mental health history, and how quickly treatment is initiated. Symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks after substance use has stopped. In some cases, especially where treatment is delayed or the individual has a pre-existing mental health condition, symptoms may persist for longer periods.
Some substances are known to induce longer-lasting psychotic episodes than others. For example, methamphetamine-associated psychosis can last for weeks, whereas psychosis induced by substances like hallucinogens may resolve more quickly once the drug leaves the system.
Treatment for Drug-Induced Psychosis
Treatment for drug-induced psychosis often involves several steps to ensure the safety and recovery of the individual affected.
Immediate cessation of substance use
Stopping the use of the substance that triggered the psychosis is the first and most crucial step.
A medically supervised detox may be necessary to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and cleanse the body of the substances.
Antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to help reduce psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Other medications can also be used to address concurrent issues like anxiety or sleep disturbances.
Counseling and therapy, including CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), can help the person understand and cope with their experiences. These therapies may also address underlying issues contributing to substance use.
Observation and monitoring
Close monitoring for safety and symptom improvement is often required, especially in the acute phase of psychosis.
This includes ensuring that the person has a safe environment, adequate nutrition, and support from family or caregivers.
Treatment of underlying issues
Addressing any co-occurring mental health disorders or substance use disorders can help prevent relapse and promote long-term recovery.
Education and rehabilitation programs
These programs can provide individuals with information about the effects of drugs, strategies to avoid relapse, and skills for managing stress and other triggers.
Aftercare and follow-up
Long-term follow-up care may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and check-ins with healthcare providers to ensure sustained recovery.
A multidisciplinary approach, often involving healthcare professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, ensures comprehensive care and support throughout the process of drug induced psychosis treatment.
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MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
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