Drug-Induced Psychosis

Written by Abby Doty

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

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Last Updated - 08/10/2023

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Updated 08/10/2023

Drug-induced psychosis is a potentially permanent complication of some substances. Symptoms of it include delusions, hallucinations and more.

Psychosis can be a terrifying experience for both the person experiencing it and their loved ones. Psychosis, which is characterized by a loss of contact with reality, can be caused by many things, including mental health issues and substance use. Psychosis caused by substance abuse is called drug-induced psychosis. If you or a loved one has experienced drug-induced psychosis, it is important to learn more about the condition to reduce its risks.

What Drugs Can Cause Psychotic Episodes?

Many different substances can cause psychotic episodes due to chemical changes in the brain. The condition can be caused by both legal and illicit agents, such as:

  • Cocaine has an up to 86.5% risk of causing psychosis.
  • Methamphetamine has an up to 37% risk of causing drug-induced psychosis.
  • Cannabis (marijuana) is correlated with an up to 10% risk of psychosis.
  • Alcohol is linked to psychosis, and people who struggle with alcohol addiction have a 4% chance of developing this condition.
  • Hallucinogens like PCP, MDMA, ketamine and LSD are linked to psychosis.
  • Cathinones like MDPV, mephedrone and khat can lead to psychosis.

Drug-Induced Psychosis Symptoms

Drug-induced psychosis is present when patients experience delusions and/or hallucinations with drug use. Hallucinations can include seeing, smelling or hearing things that are not really there, such as falsely feeling bugs crawl on your skin, for instance. Delusions involve being convinced that something is true when it is not, such as that a famous person is in love with you or that you have a health condition when you really do not.

Drug-induced psychosis most often comes after heavy or long-term substance use but can sometimes happen the first time a drug is used. Once you have one episode of drug-induced psychosis, you are more likely to have them again in the future and may be more likely to develop schizophrenia or bipolar disorder at some point as well.

Long-Term Effects of Drug-Induced Psychosis

Psychosis can have both short and long-term consequences. Besides the short-term fear and confusion from psychosis, a person with drug-induced psychosis is at a higher risk of developing long-term psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia. This risk increases if the original psychotic symptoms are not promptly treated.

Can Drug-Induced Psychosis Turn Into Schizophrenia?

Drug-induced psychosis can turn into schizophrenia or other psychiatric disorders. Some substances are riskier than others. Psychosis from cannabis has the highest risk of leading to schizophrenia at 47%.

How Long Can Drug-Induced Psychosis Last?

Drug-induced psychosis can last an unpredictable length of time, depending on the person, their medical history and the substance they used. If the person receives prompt medical attention, psychosis can be treated and often cured more quickly than if treatment is delayed or if the condition is left untreated.

Can Drug-Induced Psychosis Be Permanent?

Drug-induced psychosis can be permanent in some cases and may lead to the development of chronic psychiatric conditions. For this reason, avoiding substances linked to psychosis is important. This is especially true if you have had previous episodes of psychosis or already have mental health problems.

Risk Factors for Drug-Induced Psychosis

Many risk factors for developing drug-induced psychosis exist. These include:

  • Being a young age when the substance was first started
  • Taking a large quantity of the substance
  • Having pre-existing psychiatric conditions, like ADHD
  • Having previously had an episode of drug-induced psychosis

Helping Someone With Drug-Induced Psychosis

If a friend or loved one is showing signs of drug-induced psychosis, the most important thing you can do is seek emergency medical attention. Delaying treatment is linked to poor outcomes and may even increase the risk of causing a permanent psychiatric condition like schizophrenia. When under medical care, the person can receive treatment to ease and even reverse the psychotic symptoms.

When someone has psychotic symptoms like delusions, it is important to avoid arguing with the person. A delusion is a fixed, false belief that cannot be changed. While they are psychotic, there will be no way to change their mind, and arguing with them about why their delusion is wrong may only further agitate them and worsen matters.

Treatment for Drug-Induced Psychosis

Psychiatric treatment and medications can help with drug-induced psychosis in many cases — individual and group therapy, as well as medication, can be used to lessen or stop symptoms. Medication treatments for psychosis include both antipsychotics and benzodiazepines.

Whether you have suffered drug-induced psychosis previously or have never experienced it before, treatment is an important step to keeping symptoms under control or preventing them in the first place. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers treatment programs to help with all kinds of substance abuse and its effects. Contact us today to take a positive step on the road to recovery.

Sources

Calabrese, Jordan & Al Khalili, Yasir. “Psychosis”>Psychosis.” StatPearls, July 21, 2022. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Stankewicz, Holly A.; Richards, John R.; & Salen, Philip. “Alcohol Related Psychosis”>.” StatPearls, July 12, 2022. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Fiorentini, Alessio, et al. “Substance-Induced Psychoses: An Updated […]rature Review.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, December 23, 2021. Accessed September 19, 2022.

Fariba, Kamron A. & Fawzy, Fatma. “Delusions”>Delusions.” StatPearls, December 9, 2021. Accessed September 19, 2022.

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