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Drug-Induced Psychosis: Understanding the Causes and Risks

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In drug-induced psychosis, individuals tend to lose awareness of reality.   It can be triggered by several factors, many of which are exacerbated by substance abuse.  The symptoms vary from person to person, and the overall risks may be life-threatening in many cases.

Typically, people who use drugs expect to feel euphoric and perhaps experience hallucinations or delusions.  Generally, this level of drug-induced psychosis wears off after the drug leaves the body, but repeated episodes can be dangerous.  Here are some things to know about the effects, causes, and risks associated with substance use and psychotic episodes.

What Causes Drug-Induced Psychosis?

In addition to drugs or alcohol, drug-induced psychosis can be caused by several other factors as well.  For example, a person who has a mental disorder will be at a greater risk for substance-induced psychosis.  

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines substance-induced psychosis as:

  • “A psychotic disorder as a psychiatric disease featured by delusions and/or hallucination during or soon after substance intoxication or withdrawal.”

People with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.  Unfortunately, substance use tends to make these disorders worse.  

What Is the Relationship Between Substance Use and Psychosis?

Substance use interferes with the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.  The chemicals play a major role in controlling mood, memory, and cognitive functioning. 

The drugs that are most commonly present in cases of drug-induced psychosis include:

Furthermore, prescription drugs can cause psychosis when abused or misused.  Medications such as antidepressants, corticosteroids, stimulants, and analgesics are a few that can lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychosis if misused. 

Symptoms and Side Effects of Drug-Induced Psychosis

Drug-induced psychosis is a common problem among substance users.  However, the symptoms and side effects vary depending on the drug of abuse and the person’s physical and mental state.  The following symptoms may be gradual, becoming more dangerous with continued drug abuse:  

  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Confusion
  • Anti-social behavior

Delusions make a person believe something is happening that isn’t normal or real.  They may challenge anyone who tries to tell them differently.  An example of delusion is when a person believes they have magical abilities or have an exaggerated sense of strength or power.  Delusions or distorted thinking can cause a person to harm themselves or others.

Side effects of drug-induced psychosis may include some or all of the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Erratic or violent behavior
  • Disorganized thoughts, actions, and speech
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty expressing feelings or showing emotion

In some cases, it is hard to determine whether a psychotic episode is drug-induced.  Generally, if it is drug-related, the symptoms subside after the drug wears off.  

Why Should Substance Users Worry About Drug-Induced Psychosis?

Individuals who suffer repeated episodes of drug-induced psychosis are at risk of permanent brain damage.  Also, a person who has experienced an episode of drug-induced psychosis is at risk of having more episodes in the future.  

A person who self-medicates mental health disorders with psychoactive substances may find that their mental health symptoms are worse with the added complication of drug or alcohol addiction.

The best option for people who experience drug-induced psychosis is professional addiction treatment that provides therapies for co-occurring disorders.  

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Programs at Design for Change Recovery

Dual-diagnosis treatment is for individuals with a mental disorder and a substance use problem.  Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether some symptoms of psychosis are due to mental illness or a result of substance use.  As a result, many people fail to get the dual-diagnosis treatment they need. For this reason, it’s vital to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s medical history, drug use history, and other factors.  With this information, we can determine the right treatment approach based on the client’s needs.  

Our dual-diagnosis program helps people overcome addiction and addresses the underlying causes of substance use.  For instance, many people struggle with depression, trauma, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and other factors that fuel their substance use.  We consider all aspects of a client’s addiction and create a personalized treatment plan that aligns with their unique situation.  

At Design for Change, treatment for drug-induced psychosis and co-occurring disorders includes a range of evidence-based therapies to provide a full continuum of care.  We realize that treating mental disorders and substance use disorders at the same time provides the most positive recovery outcome.  

Treatment options in our comprehensive program at Design for Change include:

If you are struggling with substance use and drug-induced psychosis, contact our Lancaster, CA facility.  Reach out to us by phone, email, or online to speak with a treatment advisor.  We will conduct a confidential assessment and verify your insurance to make sure you get the high-quality care you deserve.  

Sources: – Substance-Induced Psychoses: An Updated Literature Review – Table 3.20 DSM-IV to DSM-5 Psychotic Disorders

Drug-Induced Psychosis: Understanding the Causes and Risks