Psychosis is a severe mental health condition in which an individual experiences a disconnection from reality and loses the ability to discern psychological processes from real-life events. Psychosis may, but is not always, caused by the use or abuse of substances.
One of the most common causes of drug-related psychosis is related to amphetamine abuse. Amphetamine psychosis is usually brief, however, and will subside soon after a person discontinues use. Psychosis can be associated with active abuse or as an effect of withdrawal.
Symptoms of Amphetamine Psychosis
Amphetamine psychosis can manifest in various ways depending on individual factors, mental illness, and the combined effects of using amphetamines with other drugs or alcohol. Amphetamine psychosis typically leads to the following symptoms:
- Extreme anxiety
- Delusions of grandeur
- Visual/auditory hallucinations
- Disorganized thinking and speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased and erratic motor activity
Less than one-fifth (about 18%) of people who use amphetamines will develop an associated psychosis. However, considering that an estimated 16 million U.S. adults are prescribed stimulants, this figure likely reflects a significant number of people.
Like all stimulants, including methamphetamine and cocaine, amphetamines work on the CNS (central nervous system) by initiating the release of natural neurochemicals into the brain, including adrenaline and dopamine. These chemicals can increase heart rate and blood pressure and improve concentration, attention, and alertness.
These effects can be a boon for individuals with conditions like ADD/ADHD, but they may also add to stress or anxiety. These adverse reactions can exacerbate or directly cause a myriad of psychological issues and symptoms, including paranoia and panic. The chances of unwanted side effects are much higher when a person uses an excessive amount of amphetamines, especially when for a prolonged period. When combined with other effects induced by regular amphetamine use, panic and paranoia can lead to full-blown psychosis.
The symptoms of amphetamine psychosis are similar to those of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and untreated bipolar disorder, which can make it challenging for doctors and mental health professionals to differentiate. However, small variations in symptoms can sometimes help health providers determine if an episode of psychosis is related to substance abuse. For example, visual hallucinations are relatively rare with schizophrenia but often present in substance-induced psychosis. Conversely, disorganized speech is common among people with schizophrenia but unlikely to be experienced by those with amphetamine psychosis.
If a person uses antipsychotic medication to address symptoms, it can further conceal the fact that the person’s psychotic symptoms were caused by amphetamine use. Moreover, improvement may result from abstinence from substances and not so much from the medication they are taking.
Amphetamines are eliminated from a person’s system within 12–15 hours of the last use, and symptoms usually recede shortly thereafter. However, once it onsets, it is not uncommon for amphetamine psychosis to endure to some extent as brain chemistry gradually stabilizes over time. These symptoms do not usually persist longer than ten days, although some people will require 30-60 days to return to normal dopamine levels. Chronic psychotic symptoms are more likely to occur among those who have abused amphetamines for an extended period.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Psychosis
People who use Adderall, Concerta, or other similar stimulants are at heightened risk of developing withdrawal psychosis. Such potent stimulants tend to alter levels of dopamine in the brain significantly. This effect can result in the manifestation of psychotic symptoms after drug use has been discontinued. This condition may be even more likely to occur when a person experiences additional stress during withdrawal.
Individuals who develop psychosis while actively using amphetamines are also at an increased risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms while undergoing detox and withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal psychosis are comparable to those related to active amphetamine use and can begin with feelings of agitation and paranoia. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances common during the initial “crash” phase of withdrawal can also increase the risk of psychosis.
Fortunately, for most, all withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines, including those considered to be psychotic, subside within three weeks. Still, those who continue to experience significant symptoms throughout this time may need to have them addressed in an addiction rehab center or hospital.
Amphetamine Psychosis Treatment
Typically, the most severe psychotic symptoms related to amphetamine use or withdrawal will gradually taper off within 1-3 days of discontinuing use. Protracted symptoms are generally mild to moderate and can sometimes be managed effectively at home.
However, many people need professional treatment during the initial phase of amphetamine psychosis, as associated symptoms are potentially dangerous. Those in its grips may be at risk of harming themselves or others. And people who experience acute amphetamine intoxication or withdrawal may also require medical care to treat other withdrawal symptoms, such as high body temperature, hypertension, and dehydration.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Although amphetamine psychosis is relatively brief in duration and does not often require long-term treatment, those who have experienced this condition may still benefit from addiction treatment to address an underlying amphetamine use disorder.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer detox services, as well as comprehensive, personalized addiction treatment programs in partial hospitalization and inpatient formats. We provide services clinically-proven to be beneficial for the recovery process, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, peer support groups, mindfulness therapy, and more.
If you are struggling with the use or abuse of amphetamines, other drugs, or alcohol, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible and discover how we can help!