Drug-induced psychosis is a common mental health episode triggered by some prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and alcohol.
Any psychotic episode related to substance use qualifies as drug-induced psychosis. National Institute on Mental Health defines psychosis as a mental condition characterized by a disconnection from reality. During a psychotic episode, symptoms include delusions (false belief) and hallucinations (false sensory experiences).
The psychotic symptoms associated with this condition can be remarkably intense. Additionally, symptoms often present more aggressively and abruptly than the symptoms of psychosis associated with a diagnosis such as schizophrenia.
This form of drug-related psychosis can occur either while someone is using the substance or during the withdrawal and detoxification process.
What is Drug Induced Psychosis?
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), psychosis is a clinical term that expresses an episode in which someone experiences disruptions to thoughts and perceptions. This is often referred to as a break with reality.
Often but not always, psychosis triggers symptoms of delusions and hallucinations.
NAMI reports that 3 in every 100 people experience one or more episodes of psychosis.
With drug-induced psychosis or substance-induced psychotic disorder, psychosis presents following or after the abuse of an intoxicant.
Any of the following prescription medications can induce psychosis:
- Prescription amphetamines like Ritalin or Adderall
- Muscle relaxers
This 2021 review of literature related to substance-induced psychoses states that there is strong supporting evidence for a relationship between substance abuse and the onset of psychosis.
The following illicit substances have psychotomimetic properties:
Substances with psychomimetic properties can trigger symptoms similar to those of a primary psychotic disorder.
Those who have been abusing alcohol long-term and who detox at home using the cold turkey method are at risk of experiencing drug-induced psychosis. The most severe form of alcohol withdrawal can involve delirium tremens, characterized by hallucinations and distorted thoughts. 5% of those who develop delirium tremens die from this complication.
Drug-induced psychosis can occur in any of these scenarios:
- After someone takes too much of a certain substance.
- Following an adverse reaction caused by mixing substances.
- During drug or alcohol withdrawal and detoxification.
- When someone has an underlying mental health issue.
While taking drugs does not suddenly cause the development of an SMI (serious mental illness) where none had previously existed, mental health disorders can be a predictor of substance abuse. An individual already susceptible to psychosis could be triggered by becoming intoxicated.
Substance abuse is defined as:
- Any use of illicit intoxicants.
- All uses of prescription medications unless directed by a doctor.
- Excessive use of legal substances like alcohol.
Symptoms of Drug Induced Psychosis
Some drugs, hallucinogens in particular, can trigger delusions and hallucinations. Drug-induced psychosis prompts a more severe form of those hallucinations. Any drug that changes brain chemistry could cause hallucinations, even if hallucinations are not a standard component of the drug high.
Those with a lengthy history of substance abuse and dependence may experience psychosis during the withdrawal process.
Whether causes by alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, substance-induced psychotic disorder leads to the following general symptoms:
- Hallucinations (auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory)
- Disconnection from reality
- Incoherent thoughts
- Reckless and dangerous behaviors
- Disorganized speech
- Emotional changes
- Erratic or violent behavior
- Antisocial behavior
It is possible to differentiate drug-induced psychosis from other types of psychosis in several ways:
- Psychosis appears while under the influence of a drug or during drug withdrawal.
- The symptoms of psychosis are more intense than in other forms of psychosis.
- Psychosis presents suddenly.
After the symptoms of psychosis subside, treatment may focus on helping the individual recover from substance abuse, dependency, and addiction in the form of substance use disorder.
Those with an existing condition capable of causing psychosis are at heightened risk of experiencing drug-related psychosis.
Beyond those general symptoms of psychosis, there are also substance-specific symptoms:
- Stimulant-induced psychosis
- Hallucinogen-induced psychosis
- Cannabis-induced psychosis
- Alcohol-induced psychosis
The most common forms of stimulant-induced psychosis include:
- Meth-induced psychosis
- Amphetamine-induced psychosis
- Cocaine-induced psychosis
Up to 40% of those who abuse meth will experience psychosis. The most common symptoms are hallucinations and persecutory delusions.
Most people who take hallucinogens and experience hallucinations are aware that their reality is temporarily altered.
In the case of hallucinogen-induced psychosis, the person is unaware of this break with reality.
The most common hallucinogens are:
- Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
In almost all cases, hallucinogen-induced psychosis will resolve in no more than a day.
CIPD (cannabis-induced psychosis disorder) usually involves delusions or hallucinations that present either during marijuana use or shortly after use.
Other common symptoms of CIPD include:
- Abnormal thoughts
- Disorganized speech
- Memory loss
- Unusual excitement
- Difficulty expressing emotion
For a diagnosis of CIPD, the following conditions must be satisfied:
- Symptoms linger after the cannabis high fades.
- Symptoms impair daily functioning at home, work, or school.
- Symptoms are not better explained by another mental health condition like schizophrenia.
One of the strongest risks of cannabis use is for the development of a psychotic disorder. This is most associated with marijuana use in youth and adolescence.
Both acute alcohol abuse and chronic alcohol abuse can result in temporary breaks from reality. This condition is known as alcohol hallucinosis.
The symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis can last for hours, days, or weeks. In most cases, the symptoms subside once alcohol leaves the system.
Now you know what to expect, can drug induced psychosis be cured?
Can Psychosis be Cured?
It is possible to make a complete recovery from substance-induced psychosis, assuming there is no underlying mental health disorder.
After supervised drug or alcohol detox at a licensed medical detox center, mental health professionals can perform an accurate analysis.
If symptoms of mental illness co-occur with substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder, integrated dual diagnosis treatment offers the most favorable outcomes.
Can Drug Induced Psychosis be Reversed?
Although some substance-induced psychotic disorders resolve untreated, some cases call for medications to help alleviate the hallucinations and delusions.
Psychosis triggered by substance use can become permanent, potentially developing into a lifelong diagnosis in the form of a drug-induced variant of schizophrenia.
If in doubt after experiencing psychosis, consult your healthcare provider.
How long does drug induced psychosis last, then?
How Long Does Psychosis Last?
Substance-induced psychotic disorders usually only last for as long as the substance remains in the system. The half-life of a drug expresses the length of time it takes for blood concentration levels of the substance to reduce by half. Most estimates suggest it takes 5.5 half-lives for a substance to be entirely eliminated from the system.
Typically, drug-induced psychosis lasts for no more than a day. If you have been heavily abusing drugs, psychotic symptoms may linger due to the increased concentration of the substance.
If psychosis is triggered by the use of cocaine, PCP, or amphetamine, symptoms may persist for weeks.
Longer-lasting symptoms of psychosis following substance use could be due to an underpinning mental health disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Many people with mental health disorders also use addictive substances – almost 17 million people have co-occurring disorders. This means it can be challenging to assess whether a mental health condition coincidentally occurs after substance use or as a direct result of substance use.
Drug Induced Psychosis Treatment
Treatment for substance-induced psychotic disorder begins with the person discontinuing use of the substance that triggered the psychosis. The person can then be monitored in a safe environment.
Some anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines can alleviate some of the symptoms of drug-induced psychosis. Antipsychotic medications can also prove effective, especially for the treatment of stimulant-induced psychotic episodes.
When the psychosis subsides, there are many options for inpatient and outpatient treatment.
If psychosis was triggered by prescription medications, you should consult your healthcare provider and seek alternative medication.
Mental Health Treatment at The District Recovery
While drug-induced psychosis can be frightening and damaging, it is also typically a short-term mental state. Therapy can help to repair any damage done.
Here at The District Recovery Community, we specialize in treating all types of mental health conditions. Whether you have experienced substance-induced psychosis or psychosis associated with a mental health condition, you can connect with the help you need without the expense or the inflexibility of residential rehab.
Our gender-specific outpatient treatment allow you to tackle mental health conditions through the following programs:
If you experience drug-induced psychosis as a result of self-medicating the symptoms of a mental health condition, our dual diagnosis program provides simultaneous treatment of both conditions.
Your treatment team will create a personalized treatment plan for you drawing from the following research-backed therapies:
If you’re ready to seek help from some of the most effective mental healthcare professionals in California, reach out to TDRC today at 844.287.8506.