Methamphetamine, often shortened to meth, is an illicit drug that produces mind-altering effects. A potential side effect of abusing meth is meth psychosis, a mental health disorder that can affect a person’s senses and perceptions. People can experience meth-induced psychosis during a meth high or after the effects of the drug wear off.
What Is Meth Psychosis and What Does It Feel Like?
Psychosis is a mental disorder that affects a person’s thoughts and emotions, potentially causing extremely paranoid or imagining experiences. During psychosis, people can have hallucinations and delusions, often at the same time.
A common question is, “What is meth psychosis?” People who use meth for a consistent amount of time are at risk of experiencing psychosis, which causes people to experience delusions, hallucinations, and obsessive thoughts or behaviors. Another effect of meth psychosis is increased aggression toward other people and an inability to manage impulses. When people become more impulsive and obsessive, they may pick at or scratch their skin causing visible wounds called meth sores.
There are meth-abuse stories from people who have severely struggled with a meth addiction that can explain how dangerous the substance is.
What Causes Meth Psychosis and Who Is At Risk?
Meth is a stimulant drug that increases the brain’s activity and the production of the feel-good chemical dopamine. The increased dopamine creates an imbalance. This chemical alteration can cause psychosis, due to the rapidly changing amount of dopamine in the brain, and dramatic moods swings.
Meth also interacts with certain areas of the brain that manage emotions and impulses like fear, aggression and fight-or-flight responses. Continued use of meth can overstimulate these areas of the brain and create an increased amount of paranoia or a desire to commit acts of violence. These impulses and emotions are common symptoms of meth psychosis.
Anyone who abuses meth is at risk of developing meth psychosis. Whether someone uses the drug at the same dosage for a consistent amount of time or first uses the drug at a high volume, the stimulant is exceptionally potent and can significantly alter a person’s brain.
Symptoms of Meth-Induced Psychosis
If you have a loved one who abuses meth, there are signs that person is experiencing meth-induced psychosis. Common symptoms include:
- Constantly scratching at the skin
- Skin sores on the arms, legs or face
- Increased aggression or violence to themselves or others
Additional information regarding each symptom can reveal meth’s impact on the brain and why meth psychosis occurs.
Meth hallucinations occur when someone experiences hallucinations after using meth. A common question is, “Does meth make you hallucinate?” Meth can make people hallucinate. Some people feel bugs crawling under their skin after they take meth. That person may attempt to scratch the bugs out, which can lead to meth sores, a symptom of meth abuse and meth psychosis.
Meth delusions occur due to the abuse of meth. Delusions are beliefs that aren’t true or based on reality. Meth causes delusions due to the stimulant’s mind-altering effects.
There are different types of delusions: persecutory and referential. Persecutory delusions involve beliefs that someone is being tricked, tortured, made fun or spied on. Referential delusions are situations where someone thinks a public message is a personal attack. Another typical example of a delusion is someone believing that the police are following them.
After taking meth, paranoia can also occur as an effect of the hallucinations. Meth increases brain activity, which can result in paranoid thoughts and rumination. Someone might hallucinate a person or object that they believe intends to harm them, which can lead to paranoid thoughts and actions.
One of the most common effects of meth is increased energy. When someone experiences meth psychosis’ effects, such as paranoia or delusions, the increased energy, and hyperactivity that occurs due to meth use may lead to aggressive or violent behavior.
The aggression that someone expresses due to meth psychosis can be directed at other individuals or themselves. Seek medical attention if a friend or family member has shown increased aggression or made violent threats to you, another person or themselves
How Long Does Meth Psychosis Last?
If you’re asking, “How long does meth psychosis last?” there is no definitive answer. Meth psychosis commonly lasts anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days, often depending on the amount of meth abused and how consistent someone uses the stimulant. However, there have been reports of meth psychosis lasting for a month, and one study revealed that instances of meth psychosis could last for one year.
Researchers at the Mental Health Research Center of the Iran University of Medical Sciences studied a patient who had a history of meth, heroin and cocaine abuse. The patient reported meth-induced psychosis symptoms that involved hearing voices. During the first year after stopping consistent meth use, the patient reported irregular experiences of meth-induced psychosis.
“This report presents the course of a case of chronic methamphetamine-induced psychotic disorder during a 1-year follow-up,” doctors Seyed Vahid Shariat and Adele Elahi wrote in the report. “The patient experienced a short recurrence of psychosis while abstaining from methamphetamine, as well as another psychotic episode with methamphetamine use even though they were receiving antipsychotic medication.”
Treatment Options for Meth-Induced Psychosis and Meth Abuse
Most addiction rehabilitation centers have the staff and resources to address meth addiction. In some cases, doctors and nurses may administer medications that prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring. Doing so can provide comfort for the patient during the detoxification stage of recovery. However, substance abuse can cause someone to experience psychosis, which should be addressed concurrently with addiction rehab.
The treatment plan for psychosis may resemble that of schizophrenia or other paranoia-involved disorders. Treatment usually involves a combination of therapy and medication, which often includes antipsychotic drugs to diminish the effects and frequency of delusions or hallucinations.
Identifying a meth addiction is the first step toward beginning treatment. The Recovery Village®’s meth self-assessment can provide insight into whether you or your loved one is addicted to the drug.
Key Points: Meth Psychosis
There are some important factors to remember regarding meth’s connection to psychosis:
- Hallucinations are a common side effect of meth abuse
- Meth can alter the brain enough to induce delusions along with hallucinations which, when combined, are considered psychosis
- Types of hallucinations and delusions include hearing voices, seeing people or objects, and developing a false sense of danger
- Psychosis can include paranoia, aggression or violence
- Meth psychosis can last anywhere from a few hours to multiple weeks, and some people reported irregular psychosis instances for a year after consistent meth use ended
Treatment for meth addiction and psychosis often requires a dual diagnosis and individual treatment plans for each condition. The Recovery Village® has facilities located throughout the country and provides support for treating addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. At one of The Recovery Village®’s facilities, patients will be under the guidance of doctors, nurses, and counselors who have helped many people recover from their dependence on drugs. If you or someone you know struggles with meth abuse and has experienced psychosis, call The Recovery Village® to receive a free assessment and begin building a recovery plan for a better future.
Seyed Vahid Shariat, MD, and Adele Elahi, MD. Mental Health Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, Iran University of Medical Sciences. “Symptoms and Course of Psychosis After Methamphetamine Abuse: One-Year Follow-Up of a Case” Accessed November 30, 2018. Published 2010.