What Is Substance-Induced Psychosis?

March 14, 2024

an image of someone dealing with substance-induced psychosis

Many addictive substances can trigger psychosis, including marijuana, meth, and prescription medications. Those affected by drug-induced psychosis may experience a disconnection from reality, evident through hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t present) and delusions (embracing untrue beliefs).

Although psychotic symptoms also occur in schizophrenia – a mental disorder that disrupts a person’s ability to process thoughts, emotions, and behaviors clearly – there are crucial differences between the two. That said, it can still be challenging for mental healthcare providers to differentiate between substance-induced psychosis and schizophrenia due to the overlap in symptoms. Additionally, the complexity of diagnosis is increased due to the high rates of substance misuse among those with schizophrenia.

Signs of Substance-Induced Psychosis

If you or someone that you love experiences a psychotic episode, reach out to a healthcare provider for evaluation and to discuss treatment possibilities. Psychotic episodes manifest differently from person to person, but there are some common signs that may indicate the occurrence of such an episode, including:

  • Delusions of persecution, such as feeling monitored or that others are plotting against you.
  • Hallucinatory experiences, like seeing, hearing, or smelling things that aren’t there.
  • Delusional beliefs, including the conviction that unseen voices are communicating with you.
  • Religious or mystical delusions like believing that you’re receiving divine communications.
  • Difficulty differentiating reality from fantasy, such as perceiving a personal connection with a public figure.
  • Neglect of personal hygiene, which may include not eating, bathing, or hoarding items.
  • Paranoid thoughts, where there’s an unfounded mistrust toward friends, organizations, or others.
  • Communication challenges, evident through jumbled speech or thoughts.
  • Overly sensitive to external stimuli, including an acute awareness of sounds, lights, or other senses.
  • Emotional flatness, showing little to no emotional response.

 

Types of Substance-Induced Psychosis

The substances most commonly implicated in substance-induced psychosis are:

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  • Marijuana
  • Meth
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • LSD
  • MDMA

The manifestation of psychosis can differ based on the type and amount of drug consumed, with sustained and heavy usage often provoking extended episodes of psychosis.

Marijuana, cocaine, and some hallucinogens may also inflame the symptoms of pre-existing mental health conditions.

Weed psychosis, also known as cannabis psychosis, is most often associated with those who have been using large amounts of marijuana long-term. Marijuana that has high concentrations of THC may induce temporary psychosis with symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia – paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions – alongside signs indicative of marijuana dependence.

Psychosis triggered by prescription medications usually happens only when the medication is not used according to prescribed dosage or when use is continued beyond the recommended duration. If a prescription drug like ketamine is misused, this may induce psychotic states characterized by confused thinking and delusions.

 

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcohol psychosis is a form of psychosis that can occur during or after heavy alcohol consumption. Unlike psychosis associated with substances like cannabis or hallucinogens, alcohol-induced psychosis often develops after prolonged periods of excessive drinking, particularly in those with a history of alcohol abuse or dependence. This condition can manifest as severe delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia, closely mirroring symptoms seen in other forms of psychosis.

Key characteristics of alcohol-induced psychosis include:

  • Hallucinations: Individuals may hear voices or see things that aren’t there, similar to the auditory and visual hallucinations experienced in schizophrenia or drug-induced psychosis.
  • Delusions: There may be strong, unfounded beliefs, such as the idea of being persecuted or targeted by others, which are not based in reality.
  • Paranoia: A heightened state of suspicion and mistrust toward others, often without reasonable justification.

Alcohol-induced psychosis normally only arises after a significant intake of alcohol, often in individuals with a substantial history of alcohol use. That said, while psychotic symptoms can be acute and severe, they are usually temporary and tend to resolve once the alcohol is metabolized and leaves the body. Repeated episodes of alcohol-induced psychosis, though, are associated with more persistent forms of psychosis, especially if the underlying issue of alcohol abuse is not addressed.

Treatment for alcohol-induced psychosis involves immediate cessation of alcohol consumption and may also include the use of medications to manage symptoms and support detoxification. Long-term treatment strategies focus on addressing alcohol dependence through rehabilitation programs, therapy, and support groups to prevent recurrence of psychosis and to promote overall mental health and sobriety.

 

Drug-Induced Psychosis

Drug-induced psychosis is a condition where someone experiences psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking as a direct consequence of substance use or withdrawal. This type of psychosis can be triggered by a wide range of substances, including both illicit drugs and prescription medications. Unlike psychosis related to mental health disorders like schizophrenia, drug-induced psychosis is usually temporary, with symptoms often subsiding once the drug is metabolized and cleared from the body. However, in some cases, the psychotic episodes can last for days or even weeks after the substance use has stopped.

The symptoms of drug-induced psychosis can mimic those of other psychiatric disorders, making diagnosis challenging. They include:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not present.
  • Delusions: Holding strong beliefs that are clearly false or irrational.
  • Disorganized thinking: Difficulty organizing thoughts, making connections, or speaking coherently.
  • Paranoia: Intense and irrational mistrust or suspicion of others.

 

How Is Substance-Induced Psychosis Treated?

Before treating substance-induced psychosis, use of the substance should be discontinued. Healthcare providers may indicate medications to manage symptoms like agitation. Benzodiazepines and antipsychotics can be effective, depending on the drug of abuse that’s involved. For psychosis triggered by stimulants like meth or amphetamine, antipsychotics are the first-line treatment. Managing psychosis induced by substances like LSD, on the other hand, may simply involve placing the individual in a quiet, observed setting.

If symptoms linger, consult a neurologist or psychiatrist for an evaluation. Mental health professionals can identify any underlying physical or mental health conditions, neurological disorders, or other contributing factors to the psychosis.

Once psychotic symptoms resolve, individuals who are dependent on drugs and experience drug-induced psychosis might need to undergo a treatment program. Rehabilitation that focuses on a holistic approach, integrating elements like social support, environmental stability, and a sense of purpose, alongside traditional medication and therapy, is considered most effective. It is important for healthcare providers, including doctors and pharmacists, to be aware of the person’s history of drug-induced psychosis to mitigate the risk of recurrence, especially if the psychosis was triggered by prescription drugs.

For individuals with schizophrenia who are undergoing treatment, the challenge of substance misuse compounds the severity of their symptoms and stunts the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. Chronic psychosis further complicates the treatment of substance abuse issues within traditional addiction programs that do not specialize in psychiatric care.

Promptly seek treatment for psychotic symptoms. Early intervention ensures appropriate care, minimizing the potential for adverse outcomes.

 

Alcohol & Drug-Induced Psychosis FAQs

What are the symptoms of weed-induced psychosis?

Symptoms of marijuana-induced psychosis can include delusions, hallucinations, confusion, and a disconnection from reality. Individuals experiencing marijuana psychosis may also experience paranoia and altered perceptions of time and space.

What are the symptoms of meth-induced psychosis?

Meth psychosis symptoms often include severe paranoia, auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, erratic behavior, and aggression. Intense anxiety and confusion may also manifest.

What are the symptoms of Adderall-induced psychosis?

Adderall psychosis symptoms are similar to other stimulant-induced psychoses, including hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and manic or aggressive behavior. It may also involve episodes of confusion and breaks from reality.

Is drug psychosis permanent in some cases?

While drug-induced psychosis is often temporary and can resolve with cessation of drug use and proper treatment, it can become permanent in some cases, especially if there are underpinning mental health issues or prolonged and heavy use of the addictive substance.

 

Get Help for Substance-Induced Psychosis at Connections

Psychosis manifest in different stages, all of which can be disruptive and distressing. If you or a loved one needs help recalibrating their life after experiencing psychosis triggered by substance use, reach out to Connections Mental Health in Southern California.

When you engage with treatment at our luxury beachside facility, you can access individualized and targeted treatments in a homely and welcoming environment with a small number of peers tackling similar issues.

Treatment programs at Connections blend holistic therapies with evidence-based interventions to provide whole-body healing, enabling you to improve overall well-being and restore functioning. You will also develop a range of healthy coping mechanisms to help you deal with everyday stressors without the complications provoked by substance use.

To engage with compassionate and effective treatment for substance-induced psychosis, call 844-759-0999 today.

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