Signs Of Methamphetamine Psychosis

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that can cause long-term cognitive damage. Up to 40 percent of people who use methamphetamine have psychotic symptoms, and those who are addicted have a greater risk of developing methamphetamine psychosis.

What Is Methamphetamine Psychosis?

Methamphetamine psychosis is a serious mental condition that occurs with excessive methamphetamine abuse. It can cause mood disturbance, paranoia, and erratic behaviors. It is generally a temporary condition, lasting a few hours for some people and several days for others.

As a central nervous system stimulant, methamphetamine increases dopamine release in the brain, which leads to a surge of energy and euphoria. This affects the brain’s ability to regulate its own activity and may lead to over-excitement, agitation, and sleeplessness.

Over time, methamphetamine impairs dopamine receptors that would normally keep dopamine levels from getting too high. The result is a constant state of arousal that can lead to psychosis and may cause permanent brain damage.

Signs Of Methamphetamine Psychosis

The signs of methamphetamine psychosis can range from mild to severe. Mild signs of nervousness and confusion do not necessarily mean that psychosis is present, but can indicate the early stages of development. Severe symptoms of psychosis may include tremors, hallucinations, and delusions.

A hallucination is the experience of something that is not actually real. Hallucinations from methamphetamine psychosis are most commonly visual and auditory but may affect other senses as well. Hallucinations may be:

  • Visual (sight): seeing something that is not real, like people who aren’t there
  • Auditory (sound): hearing a noise that is not made, like voices giving commands
  • Olfactory (smell): smelling an odor that is not being emitted, like smoke without a fire
  • Tactile (touch): feeling something imaginary, like bugs beneath the skin (formication)
  • Gustatory (taste): tasting something that is not present, like poison in food

A delusion is a false belief that does not coincide with reality. Common delusions of an individual with methamphetamine psychosis may include the belief that:

  • someone else is controlling them
  • they are more important or more powerful than others
  • their bodily appearance or function is abnormal
  • random events world are connected and linked to their life
  • authority figures, such as police or the government, are after them

Hallucinations and delusions often go hand-in-hand with paranoia and obsession. A person suffering from methamphetamine psychosis may believe they are being watched or followed. They may also engage in repetitive, pointless behaviors, such as taking things apart and putting them back together.

Some symptoms of methamphetamine psychosis may result from “tweaking.” This is a term for when a person takes methamphetamine excessively and is unable to sleep for days. Tweaking is marked by hyperstimulation and irritability that can manifest in aggressive and violent behavior.

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Methamphetamine Psychosis And Primary Psychotic Disorders

A primary psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia, exists outside of substance use. It may be present before a person begins using methamphetamine, or it may develop from prolonged methamphetamine abuse. A substance-induced psychotic disorder, like methamphetamine psychosis, occurs during drug use and stops when drug use stops, or shortly after.

Research has shown that methamphetamine use increases the chance of psychotic symptoms from a primary psychotic disorder. Extensive substance abuse can worsen cognitive impairments that already exist and may cause permanent brain changes that lead to other mental disorders.

Treating Methamphetamine Psychosis

Methamphetamine psychosis may be treated with antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol (Haldol). Benzodiazepines may also be used to quickly calm psychotic symptoms.

In some cases, psychotherapy may be an effective treatment for psychosis. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and supportive psychotherapy can help individuals regain control over their thoughts and recognize the difference between reality, hallucinations, and delusions.

These treatments in themselves are not cures for methamphetamine psychosis. The root cause is methamphetamine abuse, and an individual’s psychosis is likely to continue until their substance use disorder is healed.

Several studies have found that methamphetamine psychosis goes away when a person stops taking the drug. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that methamphetamine psychosis symptoms may persist for months or years in some people. Stress can trigger a reoccurrence of these symptoms long after methamphetamine is cleared from the body.

Comprehensive addiction treatment programs focus on healthy emotional regulation and stress management, as well as substance abstinence. This helps prevent the relapse of both psychosis and methamphetamine use. Once psychotic symptoms are calmed, a person can begin rehabilitation.

Treating Methamphetamine Addiction

Treatment for methamphetamine addiction may begin with a detoxification program. Without methamphetamine, a person struggling with addiction is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue. They may also have an intensified craving for methamphetamine, which makes it difficult to detox alone.

Medically supervised detox program help individuals through the uncomfortable withdrawal process. These programs may use medications to ease symptoms and keep a person under surveillance so they can successfully rid their body of the drug. After detox, they can begin an addiction treatment program.

The most effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction is an individualized treatment plan made of a blend of science-based therapies. Counseling, recreation, art, and behavioral therapy may be used together to address the many facets of addiction.

Some drug rehab programs offer dual diagnosis treatment. This deals with co-occurring disorders, or a substance use disorder and another mental issue, like schizophrenia. Dual diagnosis treatment aims to remedy both problems at once so that neither contributes to the reoccurrence of the other. That way, a person can experience a full and lasting recovery.

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