What Is Meth Induced Psychosis? – Methamphetamine (meth), also known as crystal meth, speed, or ice is a dangerous, addictive, and potentially life-threatening drug. It is most often found illicitly on the street after being produced in clandestine labs in the U.S. or abroad by drug cartels. Meth is created from ingredients derived from cough and cold medications (pseudoephedrine) and is combined with household chemicals and highly explosive materials such as red phosphorus.
Meth is a central nervous system stimulant, meaning that effects include accelerated heart rate and increased energy, in combination with a euphoric high. These effects are primarily produced by a massive increase in dopamine, a neurochemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Meth psychosis, when it occurs, is among the most dangerous outcomes of routine meth use.
Meth Induced Psychosis
According to the American Psychiatric Association, psychosis is defined as an episode in which a person is experiencing both hallucinations and delusions. A hallucination is frequently visual or auditory, and the term refers to something that is seen, heard, or otherwise sensed by a person that is not perceived by others.
Occasionally people encounter hallucinations that are gustatory (tasting something that isn’t there) or tactile (feeling something that isn’t there). These perceptions can manifest as a result of drug use or mental health conditions such as dementia, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Delusions are also a hallmark symptom of psychosis and involve the person holding beliefs that aren’t true, at least not objectively by others. Delusions can include paranoia, such as the belief that the person affected is being closely watched by the police or FBI. They may also include beliefs centered around certain elements that have nothing to do with them, contending that these things are targeted at them specifically (e.g., a song playing on the radio).
During meth psychosis, the individual may firmly believe that other people are out to get them, or that everyday objects are spying on them, equipped with surveillance devices. Another symptom of meth psychosis is increased aggression, which can occur as the person’s brain loses the capability to regulate impulses appropriately. When people use meth routinely, they also tend to lose their ability to respond rationally to events happening around them, and this effect can result in aggression and violence.
When people are extended meth users, they may also begin to exhibit behaviors that parallel those of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, engaging in certain actions repeatedly, such as cleaning at a frenzied pace or excessively washing hands. This effect can also contribute to some of the sores that are apparent on the face and bodies of meth users, caused by scratching or picking at skin.
When a person experiences meth-induced psychosis, it may subside when they come down from the drug’s effects, but in some cases, it can persist longer than the high itself—perhaps for several days. Unfortunately, brain damage from chronic meth abuse can leave some users with psychotic episodes that persist long after they have stopped using the drug.
Causes of Meth Psychosis
But why does meth use incur a higher risk of psychosis when compared to many other drugs? Like other intoxicating substances, meth affects the brain’s intrinsic chemical balance. Moreover, when a person uses meth, that person is altering the homeostasis of his or her brain chemistry, which may ultimately trigger meth psychosis.
Meth use also causes the brain to unleash a massive flood of dopamine. After a time, intrinsic dopamine reserves are exhausted, and the body becomes unable to create more. Extended meth use overstimulates the brain’s temporal lobe, which is believed to induce psychosis. The amygdala is also affected, and when highly stimulated, it can produce a “fight-or-flight” survival reactions.
People who experience meth-induced psychosis encounter these symptoms because their brain chemistry is unbalanced, which can lead to the feeling that they are in danger and either need to flee or lash out. For many meth users, paranoid symptoms can onset within just a few months of drug abuse. In addition to brain stimulation in areas involved with the regulation of anxiety and emotions, using meth also impacts the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, which can result in impulsive actions, aggressive behavior, and violence.
It is important to stress that meth psychosis is not rare, and is often referred to as being spun or “tweaking.” In fact, it is quite common, and many people who engage in meth use will, at some point, encounter mild-to-severe psychotic symptoms. Research indicates that nearly two-thirds of meth users have experienced psychosis to some degree or another.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Meth abuse and addiction is a devastating disease that can destroy the lives of those who use as well as families and friends, and treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Modern, comprehensive approaches include a combination of evidence-based services such as behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning.
Recovery in Tune employs compassionate addiction professionals who deliver these services to clients with care and expertise. We provide patients with the tools, resources, and skills they need to achieve sobriety and enjoy long-lasting wellness throughout the remainder of their lives. Please contact us today and begin your journey now!