Psychosis can refer to a variety of conditions where a person experiences something that is not happening in reality. They may have a hard time distinguishing between what is happening in their minds and what is real. Psychosis can result in hallucinations, where a person sees, hears, tastes, or feels things that aren’t actually there. It can also present as delusions, where a person strongly believes something to be true despite it going against what is generally accepted or reality. It can also present as disorganized or confused thinking, speech or behaviors.
The psychosis duration and recovery time will depend on how the person experiences psychosis and what induces the psychotic episode. Psychosis can be brought on by mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but it can also be the result of drug use.
There are three stages of psychosis: prodrome, acute and recovery.
- Prodrome phase: During the prodromal stage of psychosis, the person will start having changes in behavior or perceptions that might indicate psychosis is about to occur. During the beginning stages of psychosis, the person may have a hard time focusing on what they are doing or thinking, feel easily overwhelmed, have disturbances in their sleep, want to be alone more than usual or seclude themselves from social events.
- Acute phase: Acute psychosis refers to the stage where hallucinations, delusions, or other unusual behaviors are occurring. These symptoms are usually debilitating and can interfere with a person’s normal life. How long acute psychosis lasts depends on whether the psychosis is related to a mental health disorder or substance-induced.
- Recovery: The last stage of psychosis is recovery. During this stage, the symptoms of psychosis will lessen and the person will be able to return to a normal routine. This phase usually occurs after the person receives treatment for their mental health disorder or stops using the substance that induced psychosis.
Length of Different Types of Psychosis
The duration of psychosis depends on the type and cause of the psychotic episode. For instance, the duration of psychosis associated with a mental health disorder is different from that of drug-induced psychosis. Additionally, with mental health disorders, the length of time psychosis lasts will vary.
Take for example a brief psychotic disorder vs. schizophrenia. A brief psychotic disorder lasts for one month or less and usually only occurs once, whereas schizophrenia is defined by symptoms or its precursors that lasts for a period of six months. Additionally, two or more symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and extremely disorganized or catatonic behavior, must be significant and last for at least one month. In bipolar disorder, a person may experience psychosis during the manic phase, which can have a duration of weeks to months.
How Long Does Drug-Induced Psychosis Last?
Drug-induced psychosis is usually the result of the chronic use of a substance that is harmful to your brain. The psychotic events are usually associated with drug use, either during or immediately after use (during the withdrawal period). In rare cases, psychosis can occur even after the drug is out of a person’s system. The duration of psychosis varies depending on the specific drug used:
- Methamphetamine: Meth psychosis can be short-lived, lasting only a few hours while the person is on the drug, or it can occur throughout withdrawal, which can last as long as a week after taking the drug. If meth use has induced brain damage, psychosis could last beyond when the drug has fully left someone’s system, as long as six months later.
- Opiates: Opiates can also induce psychosis. Opiate withdrawal psychosis lasts for as long as the drug can be detected in the person. Generally, the psychosis will stop when the drug has completely left the person’s system.
- Alcohol: Alcohol-induced psychosis is associated with chronic alcohol use and usually lasts for the duration of time that alcohol is present in a person’s system or during the withdrawal process. On very rare occasions, psychosis can occur long after the person has stopped alcohol use.
- Marijuana: Marijuana has been linked with psychotic events and has been associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Though more needs to be learned about this association, it is possible that psychosis from marijuana use can persist in the long term, even after the drug is no longer used.
A substance use disorder can also co-occur in someone who has a psychotic disorder. In most cases, substance use will make the psychotic disorder worse and a person may experience more severe symptoms of psychosis while under the influence of various substances.
Can Psychosis Go Away on Its Own?
If the psychosis is a one-time event, such as with brief psychotic disorder, or substance-induced psychosis, it may go away on its own. However, if the psychosis is a result of an underlying mental health disorder, it is unlikely the psychosis will go away naturally. Studies have found that shortening the time between the first psychotic episode and when a person receives treatment can help improve their overall success with treatment. The length of time for psychosis to go away following the start of treatment can also be shortened by seeking treatment early after symptoms start to occur.
When to Seek Help
When a person experiences psychosis for the first time, it may be difficult to know if they should seek help or not. However, it has been shown that psychosis treatment greatly improves the sooner someone gets help. Therefore, if a person experiences psychosis that is not related to substance use, it would be beneficial for them to establish care with a trusted provider so that they can monitor their symptoms and get immediate treatment if they progress.
For individuals that experience psychosis with substance use, it is generally a sign of a substance use disorder as this will usually only occur with chronic substance use. In many cases, getting treatment for their substance use disorder and stopping the use of the substance will improve their symptoms of psychosis.
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