In young adults, drug-induced psychosis, or substance-induced psychosis is not caused by drug abuse alone, mental health disorders also play a crucial role. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a drug-induced psychosis can occur as a result of having a substance use disorder which can exacerbate a pre-existing mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or even severe depression. Early intervention and proper treatment for individuals struggling with this condition can provide vital care and support leading to a successful recovery.
In order to achieve this, it is important to understand what psychosis is and the link between mental health and substance abuse. In this article, we’ll explore the signs, symptoms, types, and treatment options for drug-induced psychosis.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health
When it comes to the relationship between substance abuse and mental illness, one could say that they are closely knit together, making it difficult to determine which diagnosis came first and which one takes priority when it comes to treatment.
On one hand, someone who did not have a mental illness before they started abusing drugs could put their mental health at risk and begin to develop a mental health disorder over time. The reverse is also true – someone who struggles with a mental health disorder may turn to substances for relief and over time develop a substance use disorder.
Regardless of the order in which someone develops substance use and mental health disorders, in behavioral healthcare, this is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Drug-induced psychoses are no exception from this, in fact, they are among the more severe forms of co-occurring disorders. This severity indicates the need for comprehensive and integrated treatment which encompasses treating mental health and addiction equally.
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, these disruptions are often experienced as seeing, hearing, and believing things that aren’t real or having strange, persistent thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. These are common among individuals experiencing a psychotic illness such as substance-induced psychosis.
When someone is in psychosis, they usually start to develop psychotic features and transient psychotic symptoms. These symptoms can include severe psychotic episodes, which include delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. If someone is developing a substance-induced psychotic disorder, they may start to exhibit the following drug-induced psychosis symptoms:
The effects of delusion can lead one to believe that they are in an entirely different year or place. While in a state of delusion, individuals believe that people they do not know, for instance, someone on TV, or a stranger on the street, are secretly trying to send them a message. Delusion can also place false beliefs in one’s mind such as someone is trying to hurt them or that they are this year’s hottest and most talked about celebrity.
When hallucinating, an individual tends to have visual hallucinations that appear to be completely real. This can also comprise auditory hallucinations when someone hears voices in their head and tactile hallucinations, when someone touches things that are not actually there.
Someone in an altered state of psychosis tends to be extremely paranoid and believes that everyone is either staring at them or talking about them. They may believe that there are cameras following them and that they are being watched 24/7. Paranoia can also cause extreme thoughts such as their closest family members and friends plotting against them.
Types of Drug-Induced Psychosis
Anyone who takes high doses of psychoactive substances or engages in drug use regularly can be putting themselves at risk of ending up in a drug-induced psychosis. Ranging from marijuana to meth and psychedelics, individuals are generally unaware of the potential risks associated with abusing these substances.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research has shown that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk for an earlier onset of psychotic disorders. When a person takes a large amount of cannabis, a temporary cannabis-induced psychotic episode could ensue. In sporadic cases, an individual could end up in permanent psychosis, however, this depends on other risk factors such as a pre-existing mental health condition or a family history of mental illness.
According to the National Library of Medicine, when it comes to meth use, up to 40% of people who abuse this substance are very likely to experience psychotic symptoms and psychotic episodes. When individuals continue to use the drug over a long period of time, the chances of ending up in a drug-induced psychosis increase drastically. Meth use can also cause prolonged symptoms and permanent damage to the brain which may develop into serious neurodegenerative disorders later in life. For those who struggle with a mental health disorder, one instance of acute intoxication could send them directly into psychosis.
When used only once, certain hallucinogenic drugs such as acid (LSD) or shrooms (Psilocybin) can significantly affect one’s mind. Those who abuse these drugs, especially young adults, are often unaware of the strength of these substances. A teenager looking to experiment with different drugs and have a good time could easily end up in a psychedelic-induced psychosis or have a severe psychotic episode. These types of drugs usually cause people to have psychological and perceptual distortions, which mimic the symptoms of psychosis. At high doses, these effects may last for hours on end and cause a mental break. In some cases, an individual can be stuck in this state of mind for days, causing severe damage to the brain.
If you or someone you know is struggling with certain mental illnesses, a substance abuse problem, or alcohol addiction, there are plenty of behavioral and mental health services out there that can offer vital support. From group therapy and family therapy to inpatient treatment and sober living homes, there is a wide variety to choose from. Reaching out to a mental health professional is often a great first step when searching for the proper level of care. With the right treatment, recovering from a drug-induced psychosis is possible.
Within the realm of inpatient treatment, there are a variety of facilities and levels of care ranging from detox centers and rehabs to psychiatric hospitals. When it comes to drug-induced psychosis treatment, it is not uncommon for individuals to initially be admitted to a psychiatric facility before transitioning to a lower level of care. This provides necessary stabilization and will most likely include a regiment of medications to bring patients out of psychosis. Once stable, the next step may be moving to a rehab facility and beginning to address the underlying mental health condition and substance use disorder.
Outpatient treatment usually comes in the form of a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or intensive outpatient program (IOP) and involves a wide range of treatment modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of care is usually conducted at an outpatient rehabilitation center where individuals may attend daily or every other day for three to six hours per day. Outpatient programs primarily consist of group therapy sessions which offer an opportunity for individuals to process and work through struggles alongside their peers.
Drug-induced psychosis can lead to long-term struggles with substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders. Sober living homes present a unique opportunity for individuals to receive the support they need to recover from addiction and underlying mental health issues. After completing an inpatient program, it is recommended that individuals attend some form of aftercare program. Rehab is a great start, however, many people get stuck in life and return to old behaviors when contemplating what to do after rehab. Good sober living homes will provide a safe and structured environment where residents have plenty of time to focus on themselves and get their lives back on track.
Seek Help for Drug Addiction
When someone starts exhibiting erratic behavior such as hallucinations, paranoia, or any other psychotic symptoms as a result of drug abuse, seeking help immediately drastically improves the chances of a successful recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and mental health, call New Life House to learn more about our sober living in Los Angeles. It may be challenging to see a loved one in this state, however, offering support during this time of need can make a huge difference.