Drug-induced psychosis, also known as substance-induced psychotic disorder, is simply any psychotic episodes related to the abuse of an intoxicant. This can occur from taking too much of a specific drug, having an adverse reaction after mixing substances, during withdrawal from a drug, or if the individual has underlying mental health issues.
Though it’s not true that taking a certain kind of drug can suddenly trigger a severe mental illness where none had existed, mental illness is a predictor of substance abuse. Someone prone to psychosis can be started by becoming overly intoxicated. Substance abuse is defined as any use of an illicit intoxicant, prescription medication outside the direction of a doctor, or excessive use of legal substances such as alcohol.
Drug And Alcohol Abuse
Psychosis can be caused by the abuse of hallucinogens or certain prescription medications. In rare cases, some people can experience psychosis as a side effect even when taking prescription drugs properly.
List Of Medications That Have Possible Psychotic Side Effects
- Antiparkinson Medications
- Chemotherapy Agents
- Muscle Relaxants
- Antihypertensive Medications
- Cardiovascular Medications
When psychotic symptoms appear when taking prescription medications, the individual or a loved one should contact a doctor immediately. It may be necessary to discontinue taking the drug.
The probability of psychotic symptoms that arise and what they look like concerning nonprescription intoxicants vary from one drug to another—for example, taking a large amount of cocaine all at once can cause psychosis in minutes. Hallucinogens can, of course, cause visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations, but this is not the same as psychosis. However, an adverse reaction or taking too much of this drug can also cause delusions and paranoia. This can happen with the use of hallucinogens such as LSD and psychotropic mushrooms.
Alcohol abuse can cause psychosis, but typically only after days or weeks of intense use. People who have had a chronic alcohol abuse problem for several years are also vulnerable to extreme paranoia and hallucinations. This occurs due to the damaging effects of alcohol on the brain over time and the lack of thiamine (a vitamin B complex) in the body that can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Substance abuse does not always lead to physical addiction, but it does increase the risk of developing this problem. The more prolonged and more intense the abuse, the greater the risk. Physical dependence is characterized by the emergence of withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops taking the intoxicant. Depending on the type of substance abused, length of time the abuse has gone, and how much is typically taken at once, withdrawal can include psychosis.
The most commonly known substance-induced psychosis from withdrawal involves alcohol. Long-term alcohol addiction can significantly change the chemistry and even the brain’s structure, possibly producing a set of symptoms referred to as delirium tremens when the addicted individual stops consumption.
Symptoms of Delirium Tremens include:
- Body Tremors
- Sudden mood changes
- Fatigue or Stupor
- Changes in mental functions
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Decreased Attention Span
Delirium tremens is considered to be a medical emergency. Because the psychotic symptoms can be severe and require sedation, while the seizures can be directly life-threatening, about 1-5 percent of people who experience delirium tremens will die from it.
Psychosis can also appear during withdrawal in individuals who have suffered from a long-term addiction to many substances that significantly affect brain chemistry.
Psychosis In Mental Illness
Several mental illnesses can include psychotic episodes as a symptom. Schizophrenia is often the first illness that comes to mind when people think of psychosis; however, not every type of schizophrenia includes psychotic symptoms. People with bipolar disorder can also experience psychosis. This typically occurs during extreme manic periods. Psychosis can also appear in people with major depressive disorder, resulting in a diagnosis of psychotic depression. Unfortunately, this disorder has a high mortality rate due to the intense suffering combined with psychotic episodes. Other conditions that have psychosis as a symptom include delusional disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Plus, it can present in degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and dementia.
Brain tumors, cysts, or untreated HIV or syphilis can also cause psychosis. When an individual has a mental illness that already can include psychosis, drug abuse can more easily lead to this symptom. However, it can be tricky to determine whether the drug abuse triggered the psychosis or whether the early effects of psychosis led to drug abuse. At the same time, certain substances can interact with antipsychotic medications, causing them to become less effective or ineffective, triggering a psychotic episode.
Substance-Induced Psychosis Treatment Options
Psychosis is merely a symptom, not a condition in and of itself. It is typically very temporary, resolving in a couple of hours or days at most. However, it’s a severe symptom that often requires emergency medical intervention. One in five people with a history of psychosis will attempt to kill themselves. In comparison, psychosis is when people lose some contact with reality. This might involve seeing or hearing things that other people cannot see or hear (hallucinations) and believing things that are not true (delusions).
Symptoms Of Psychosis
The Two Main Symptoms of Psychosis are:
- Hallucinations: Where a person hears, sees, and, in some cases, feels, smells, or tastes things that do not exist outside their mind but can feel very real to the person affected by them; a shared hallucination is hearing voices.
- Delusions: Where a person has strong beliefs that are not shared by others; a common misconception is someone believing there’s a conspiracy to harm them.
The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can cause severe distress and a behavior change.
In substance-induced psychosis, the apparent cure is to stop abusing any substance; however, the reality is often more complicated. Addiction can make it difficult to control, and withdrawal symptoms are virtually unavoidable after long-term substance abuse. In addition, mental illness symptoms can become unbearable to the point that afflicted individuals self-medicate, or a loss of impulse control can blow any resolve to abstain.
Effective Treatment Substance-induced Psychosis
There are plenty of options for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Medically supervised detox can easily prevent the more severe symptom of psychosis through using common medications or by tapering off the substance rather than quitting cold turkey. Once the initial detoxification is completed, psychosis should not be an issue.
However, relapse and the subsequent necessity for another detox can increase the chances that psychosis will appear as a symptom during withdrawal. Because of this, it’s essential to follow detox with a complete rehabilitation program. Both types of care should involve therapy and support group meetings to learn the skills necessary to live a clean life. After several weeks of that, attending support group meetings or group therapy significantly reduces the chance of relapse.
In pre-existing mental illness, proper treatment is essential to ensure that the afflicted individual does not need to self-medicate. There are many possible medications to try for those living with depressive disorders and bipolar disorders. For example, mood stabilizers like lithium can prevent the intense manic states that can lead to psychosis.
It’s very often beneficial for people with mood disorders to attend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or similar therapy. CBT aims to train clients toward more adaptive thought patterns, teach them new behavioral skills that can strengthen impulse control, and help them find healthier ways to cope when things get tough. However, like with the other disorders, finding the right drug or combination of drugs usually takes some time to make symptoms manageable. That is why a medically assisted detox is the best option as you will have proper guidance with treatment experts.
We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing information about substance-induced psychosis and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
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