Psychosis and Substance Abuse
Psychosis is a condition that refers to a psychiatric state which may be temporary or enduring. Individuals suffering from psychosis may experience hallucinations and delusions, breaks in attention, memory impairment and incoherent thoughts and speak. Personality changes are common as well as unusual or bizarre behaviors. Psychosis is known to be induced at times by particular substances including alcohol, methamphetamine and marijuana.
When a person is experiencing a psychotic episode as a result of drugs or alcohol, they may be mistakenly diagnosed as having an acute psychiatric condition such as schizophrenia due to the similarities in symptoms. These symptoms may be felt for days, weeks or years after the cessation of using a substance, particularly when in a stressful situation.
Research suggests that individuals who are vulnerable to psychiatric conditions such as manic depression or schizophrenia increase their risk of having a psychotic episode by using drugs and alcohol. It has not been fully discovered whether the use of substances causes the person to develop a mental health disease or if the substances are used as a form of self-medication for existing problems.
Psychosis induced by stimulants typically occurs when a person has been taking large amounts of stimulants in a binge or over an extended time. Amphetamine and methamphetamine the most common drugs to induce this type of condition. However more recently designer drugs have been found to cause psychosis.
People who are experiencing a stimulant psychosis lose contact with reality and may become fixated on a particular place or action and perform repetitive, socially meaningless, non-goal directed acts such as sorting rubbish, pacing, or searching for things. People who have an amphetamine and methamphetamine psychosis have been known to pull their hair, teeth and nails out as a response to delusions they are experiencing. They may become violent towards others, scratch and pick holes in their bodies to remove imaginary bugs.
Typically, people who are experiencing these hallucinations and delusions will stop having them once they have stopped using the drug. They may have some remnants of paranoia for some time and it may also be felt every time they take the drug again. If a person has been on a binge for many days without sleep, the psychosis will usually stop after the person has slept. In some cases medical intervention is required and a person could be prescribed a fast acting anti-psychotic drug such as Quetiapine.
Cocaine is another highly addictive drug that is associated with psychosis. The drug is often repeatedly used in binges which increases the risk of tolerance, overdose and having a psychotic episode. Many people who take the drug in this fashion will become paranoid, anxious, agitated and begin to see and hear things that don’t exist. This is particularly true for people who take crack cocaine.
Chronic users of crack cocaine often develop strange patterns of behavior which can include agitation, paranoia, aggression, visual and auditory hallucinations and confusion. Many people may also become irrationally violent. These symptoms of psychosis can occur both when the person is under the influence of the drug or when they are coming down off the drug, especially if they have been binging and sleep deprived. These symptoms may persist for a long time or develop into greater psychosis or other psychiatric conditions.
Marijuana is the most widely used of all illicit substances worldwide and its chronic or heavy use is often linked to drug-induced psychosis. This can increase the feelings of anxiety, restlessness and paranoia to a state that is potentially harmful. A person in a marijuana may begin to exhibit unusual behaviors, hide, hear things that don’t exist, become unable to concentrate and have reduced ability to communicate. This can be caused by strong marijuana or extended use of the drug.
Studies have shown that marijuana can increase the risk of incidence of psychotic episodes and potentially contribute to long term psychological disturbances. This is particularly the case for a person who is pre-disposed or has a family history of mental illness. For these people, marijuana can be the beginning of a life-long health issue.
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When a person is experiencing a psychotic episode, they may be difficult to understand, communicate with and manage into treatment. They may be seeing things that are not there, hearing things that are not being said and have disordered thinking. They may also be harming themselves while in this state and will often require medical attention. Some people can be assisted with the use of anti-psychotic medications plus given food, drink and sleep. Many of the delusions and hallucinations can be caused by lack of sleep.