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Updated on October 17, 2021

Drug-Induced Psychosis

What is Drug-Induced Psychosis?

Drug-induced psychosis (or substance use) is when someone experiences reality differently. It is caused by either drug or alcohol use.

People can also experience drug-induced psychosis when they attempt to refrain from a substance.

Drug-induced psychosis can also be characterized as a temporary mental health symptom.

Psychosis is when a person is experiencing a different reality. A psychotic episode can be described as having false beliefs, hallucinations, and false sensory experiences.

A lot of different things can cause psychosis:1

  • Trauma or abuse
  • Excessive alcohol or smoking
  • Intake of recreational drugs
  • Injuries or physical illnesses
  • Prescription medications

When a person is experiencing drug-induced psychotic symptoms, they can lose a grip on reality. 

Some types of drug-induced psychosis include:2

  • Delusions
  • Visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations
  • Confusion

What Causes Drug-Induced Psychosis?

At first glance, what causes drug-induced psychosis may appear to be self-explanatory. 

However, it can also be triggered by an underlying mental health condition (such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) that is exacerbated by a number of things. These include: 

  1. Medications such as muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and analgesics
  2. Psychoactive substances such as sedatives, alcohol, and cannabis

Despite all of these, it’s still uncertain how a specific substance will cause substance-induced psychosis. 3 Some factors to consider are: 

  • Existing mental health disorders
  • History of drug use
  • Existing intake of prescription drugs
  • State of withdrawal from any substance

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Symptoms of Drug-Induced Psychosis

Psychotic symptoms (or withdrawal symptoms) include:

  • Increased anxiety levels
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Memory problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing 
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Fear or panic
  • Mixed perceptions 

How long these symptoms last depends on a variety of factors. These factors include the presence of any underlying mental health conditions, the level of substance use, and a person’s medical history. 

In most cases, these symptoms stop after the drug or substance leaves your body. Psychosis brought about by pain medications can sometimes last a week. 

Some substances like methamphetamine can affect the person for roughly a month after they stop using the substance. 4

How to Cope with Drug-Induced Psychosis

Since psychotic symptoms are pretty easy to spot, it helps to know how to cope with drug-induced psychosis. 

It’s always a good idea to seek professional help right away, especially for those with an underlying mental health condition. 

Controlled breathing exercises are recommended for those experiencing psychotic symptoms. A relaxed or steady breathing exercise usually consists of 10 to 12 breaths per minute. It allows you to have a sense of mindfulness. 

Muscle relaxation is also a recommended way to cope with psychotic symptoms. 

Lastly, having a trusted friend or a loved one to accompany you has been proven to be one of the best ways to go through psychotic episodes.

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How is Drug-Induced Psychosis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing drug-induced psychosis should be made after noticeable symptoms significantly impact your overall well-being or quality of life.

Some key indicators include symptoms starting within a month of using or withdrawing from substances such as alcohol or drugs. 

In most cases, drug-induced psychosis symptoms should lessen after one month

Treatment for Drug-Induced Psychosis 

Treating drug-induced psychosis can vary depending on the extent of substance use and underlying mental health issues.

These treatment options can range from group therapy sessions to a custom, more personal approach

The substance responsible for the psychotic reaction should be removed from the person’s system as soon as possible. 

Experts suggest psychological treatment as a means for a much more hands-on approach. Some of these treatments could include inpatient rehabilitation, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and other therapies/group sessions.6

Certain types of medication may also be used depending on the severity and needs of the person. 

Developing healthy habits can also serve as a treatment for induced psychosis or other mental health disorders.

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Treatment for Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

Mental illnesses can still be present even after the psychotic substance is removed from the patient’s body. This is why it’s important to treat the associated mental illness as well.

One way to help manage your emotions is through the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is described as a type of psychological treatment that helps deal with specific physical or mental problems. 

Another known way to treat co-occurring mental health conditions is through the use of antipsychotic medication

Antidepressants may be used and recommended depending on the severity of the condition.

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Resources

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  1. Mind.Org.UK, “Psychosis
  2. Szarka, David, MA, LCADC, “What Is Drug-Induced Psychosis?
  3. Greenhouse Treatment Center, “What Is Drug-Induced Psychosis?
  4. Szarka, David, MA, LCADC, “What Is Drug-Induced Psychosis?
  5. NDARC, “Psychosis
  6. NDARC, “Psychosis
  7. American Psychological Association, “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

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