5 Ways You Can Recognize Drug-Induced Psychosis and Why Treatment Is Essential

It is important to understand the signs of drug-induced psychosis in order to get treatment. Psychosis can be caused by a mental illness or by drug use, but it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Knowing the difference can help someone get the help they need. Drug-induced psychotic symptoms usually do not persist, but they can return if the underlying issue of substance abuse is not treated and managed.

Psychosis is a very serious mental health issue, and it needs to be addressed and treated for a person to be able to manage symptoms and restore normal functioning. But in order to be treated effectively, you have to know what kind of condition is causing the psychotic symptoms. Psychosis is not a condition in itself; it is a group of symptoms that can be triggered by mental illness or drug use.

Psychotic symptoms may be caused by a primary mental illness, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or schizoaffective disorder. It’s also possible to experience psychosis without mental illness. An episode of psychosis can also be triggered by a traumatic experience or a brain injury. It can also be caused by drug use or as a part of withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to understand what’s causing a person’s psychosis, because the underlying factors must be addressed and treated if possible to stop symptoms. For instance, if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, antipsychotic medications and therapy can help you manage this chronic illness and prevent relapses of psychosis.

But, if your psychotic episode was triggered by drug use, you need addiction treatment. You’ll be unlikely to experience psychosis again if you get sober and avoid relapse. To be successful in this, you need individualized, professional, effective treatment for substance use disorder. Here are some characteristic signs that you or someone you care about is going through

1. Typical Signs of Psychosis Are Present.

Psychosis generally refers to symptoms related to a break with reality, or a difficulty perceiving what is real and what isn’t. Everyone’s experience is unique, but there are some general and common symptoms of psychosis. These can be triggered by drug use:

  • Hallucinations. These are perceptions from the senses that are not real. They may include images, visions, voices, smells, tastes, or a feeling of being touched.
  • Delusions. This is a persistent belief in something that is not true, even when evidence is presented. For instance, you may think your loved ones are out to hurt you or that a celebrity is secretly in love with you.
  • Disturbed thoughts and emotions. Common with psychosis is disordered thinking, rapid and unorganized speech, inappropriate emotional responses, or a lack of emotions.

To be diagnosed with substance-induced psychosis, you must have hallucinations or delusions, but there may also be many other symptoms present.

2. Symptoms Occur During Drug Use or Withdrawal.

The symptoms of psychosis caused by drug use and by a mental illness are often indistinguishable. But, if a person has just used a drug and is still experiencing its effects, or is going through withdrawal when the symptoms begin, this can be a sign that it is drug-induced psychosis. There’s still the possibility that psychosis during drug use is really triggered by a psychotic condition like schizophrenia. However, you would likely have already experienced psychosis before drug use if this is the case.

3. Psychotic Symptoms Don’t Persist.

For someone going through drug-induced psychosis, the troubling symptoms should go away pretty quickly. If they persist for a month or more after cessation of drug use or after withdrawal has eased, there is a good chance that the symptoms were triggered by drug use, not by a primary mental health condition.

We're Here to Help. Call Today!


4. Psychosis Presents Atypically.

Most people with primary psychotic conditions, like schizophrenia, first experience symptoms in adolescence or in their early 20s. It is unusual, or atypical, to have the onset of a psychotic condition occur in someone older than this.

The psychotic symptoms may also present in a course that is atypical. That is, if they don’t follow the usual pattern, it’s important to consider that drugs played a role and that the person is experiencing drug-induced psychosis. For instance, the onset of psychosis is more often gradual than sudden. In someone with early psychosis, you may see minor but troubling behavioral changes, mild paranoia or suspicion of others, isolation, and emotional changes. If symptoms begin suddenly, drugs may be the culprit rather than an actual psychotic condition.

5. There May Be Awareness of Psychotic Symptoms

A characteristic of psychosis is that you are not aware that your hallucinations, delusions, or other experiences are not real. For people going through psychosis that has been triggered by drug use, alcohol, or withdrawal, it is possible there is some awareness. You may have some idea that the experience you’re going through is related to drugs. In other words, you may not have completely lost touch with reality, as is more often the case with a condition like schizophrenia.

Drug-Induced Psychosis Requires Treatment

Many people who experience drug-induced psychosis will recover without any intervention. Some may have severe symptoms, though, and need to be stabilized in the hospital. Hallucinations and delusions can cause a person to engage in risky, harmful behaviors, so stabilization is essential for making sure they don’t hurt themselves or others.

Additionally, psychosis caused by drug use may recede but the issue of substance abuse is still present. If you or someone you care about misuses drugs and has had psychotic symptoms, it could happen again. Having this experience once makes it more likely you will have it again. To prevent psychosis, it is essential that you get treatment for substance use disorder.

Another risk of leaving this untreated is that you could be predisposed to have a real psychotic condition like schizophrenia. There is evidence from studies that use of certain drugs, especially marijuana, can increase the chance of an onset of schizophrenia episodes in someone who already has risk factors for it. So if, for instance, you have a family history of schizophrenia and you abuse drugs, you are increasing your risk for this serious mental illness, which otherwise might not develop in you.

Treatment for a substance use disorder cannot ensure that you will never experience a psychotic episode again, but it can significantly reduce the risk by helping you avoid relapse. A good treatment center will also evaluate you for any mental illnesses that need to be addressed. It is important to get a thorough diagnosis and treatment for any and all issues for the best mental health.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.