Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant. The drug can cause a host of physical health problems, including weight loss, severe tooth decay and stroke. It can also lead to significant psychological consequences.
“There are a lot of side effects that people get with meth, but the main one is induction of psychosis,” Dr. Edward Bednarczyk told DrugRehab.com. “Schizophrenia and psychotic reactions occur because meth affects the same neurotransmitter that’s involved with schizophrenia and psychosis.”
The symptoms of meth-induced psychosis resemble those of paranoid schizophrenia. They include delusional thoughts, aggressive behavior and seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there.
According to guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association, meth-induced psychosis can be diagnosed when:
Meth psychosis may contribute to the lengthier treatment stays and frequent referrals to court-ordered treatment that are associated with meth addiction and abuse. It is important for people who develop this psychiatric disorder to seek medical attention.
Chronic methamphetamine use is closely associated with meth-induced psychosis. People who abuse the drug experience changes to their brain, making them susceptible to a wide range of mental health problems.
A number of factors contribute to the development of meth psychosis, including:
Studies have found that people experiencing schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or a schizotypal personality disorder have an increased risk for developing meth-induced psychosis.
“You’ve kind of got psychosis in a pill form, or an inhaled or injected form, with meth,” Bednarczyk said. “When you start to use that, the risks of having a very real psychosis develop are high. People who have a family history of psychosis or schizophrenia really ought to never touch this stuff.”
Bednarczyk is the director of the Center for Health Outcomes, Pharmacoinformatics and Epidemiology at the University at Buffalo. He said people without a history of mental illness can also develop symptoms of psychosis after using meth.
That was one of the findings of researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln who reviewed existing research on meth psychosis. Other research has shown methamphetamine can worsen psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia.
Psychotic symptoms caused by meth abuse can persist for years after a person has stopped using the stimulant. In some cases, stress can lead to the spontaneous reoccurrence of meth-induced psychosis in people with a history of meth psychosis.
Even when no other psychiatric disorders are present, people who are dependent on methamphetamine are about three times more likely than meth users who are not dependent to develop meth psychosis. In fact, a 2014 study estimated that between 26 and 46 percent of individuals with meth dependence experience methamphetamine psychosis.
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Recognizing signs of meth use can be difficult. People with meth psychosis exhibit a number of personality changes. Over time, they may start to display physical, psychological and behavioral changes.
Signs of meth psychosis include:
According to a 2014 study published in the journal CNS Drugs, research shows that up to 40 percent of methamphetamine users suffer from symptoms of psychosis.
Symptoms of meth psychosis include:
Individuals with psychosis caused by meth abuse might experience changes to many aspects of their lives. The condition can lead to poor physical, mental and social health. It can also result in homelessness.
Evidence shows that behavioral therapy is considered the most effective first-line treatment for people experiencing meth psychosis. While cognitive behavioral therapy has not been formally studied as a treatment for the condition, the approach can help individuals cope with symptoms related to psychosis.
The Matrix model is effective for encouraging meth users to commit to treatment and sobriety. This behavioral intervention for stimulant addiction teaches relapse prevention skills using the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Several antipsychotic medications have shown effectiveness in treating acute meth psychosis. A 2009 study found that olanzapine and haloperidol can help treat psychotic symptoms.
In addition, a 2014 study showed that haloperidol and quetiapine were effective treatments for the meth psychosis. Both medications were tolerable, and they relieved psychosis in most patients.
However, little is known about the effectiveness of antipsychotics in treating children and teens with meth psychosis. Many people experience their first episode of meth-induced psychosis during this age range.
Individuals with meth-induced psychosis need medical attention. They can receive meth addiction treatment at an inpatient psychiatric facility or another crisis intervention setting. Many drug rehab centers can assist people with mental health disorders diagnosed alongside meth addiction.
If you know someone experiencing meth psychosis, it is important to avoid confrontation. People with the condition have high levels energy and can be unpredictable. It is difficult to negotiate with them about their substance abuse.
Be reassuring, supportive and careful with your words. You can talk to the person about the benefits of going to rehab for meth addiction, but wait until he or she is sober. Speak in a calm voice and do not argue. If the person becomes hostile or violent, call 911.
For additional instructions on how to help someone struggling with psychosis caused by methamphetamine addiction, contact a meth hotline. An admissions representative can refer you to a nearby treatment center and explain how to safely convince your loved one to seek help.
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