What Is Stimulant-Induced Psychosis?

In the early part of the 20th century, modern-day illicit drugs were once used to treat a variety of mental illnesses and ailments. Famous writers, doctors and notable figures took drugs to supposedly heighten their understanding of the world and everything in it.

Further research in the decades that followed showed that many of these drugs once used actually had a multitude of negative side effects for the user.

Drugs like cocaine, cannabis, and hallucinogens can cause mental health problems and, when paired with a pre-existing mental illness, can exacerbate the symptoms of such illnesses. Some drugs, when taken frequently for long periods of time, can actually manifest as psychotic symptoms indicative of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy.

Psychosis in general is considered to be an illness accompanied by delusions and/or hallucinations. Usually these hallucinations occur outside of the user’s understanding and scope of cognition. Hallucinations are primarily visual, and their effects can be elevated with the use of certain psychedelic drugs. Delusions, on the other hand, are shifts in the user’s reality in such that he or she believes something outside of what is really going on.

Symptoms of Drug-Induced Psychosis

When a drug user has a mental illness prior to drug use, it may be hard to identify symptoms that are exclusively due to the drug use itself. Most symptoms, if the condition is unrelated to drugs, will continue after abstinence from the drug. The opposite is true for drug-induced psychosis; the schizophrenic-like effects will more or less subside after the drug wears off. However, this is not true for all drug users as frequent and prolonged use can cause side effects that last up to years after use discontinues.

Early symptoms of psychosis are gradual and progress as the individual ages and/or drug use continues. Aside from delusions and hallucinations, here are some things to look for:

  • Changes in emotion: no emotional response, difficulty expressing feelings, flat affect (appearance or no emotional expression)
  • Lethargy; lack of motivation
  • Socially withdrawn
  • Incoherence in thought and actions; disorganized speech
  • Violent behavior; erratic, sometimes dangerous, actions

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What Substances Increase the Risk for Drug-Induced Psychosis?

Because drugs cause interruptions in the absorption and release of brain chemicals like serotonin or dopamine, the internal structure and function of the brain changes as use continues.

With heavy, long-term use, nearly any drug can cause symptoms of psychosis in the user. A few, however, tend to be more closely correlated with drug-induced psychosis than others.

Cocaine and Amphetamines

These stimulants can contribute to psychotic symptoms that can last days, months, and years after the drug use stops. Long-term use is attributed to loss of memory and problems with concentration. In a study noted in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, about one-half of cocaine users showed psychotic symptoms after use. When freebased or used with a needle (intravenously), the risk for these experiences increases.


Delusions attributed to alcohol can cause disorientation, disorganized speech and mental confusion. In most cases, these effects go into remission when sobriety occurs. In comorbid patients with schizophrenia, alcohol is also one of the most widely abused substances, along with marijuana and cocaine.


Psychedelic drugs like phencyclidine (PCP) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) affect the user in a way that mimics actual psychosis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. These drugs, however, are not shown to induce psychosis with the first use. The symptoms are more prevalent after repeated use of the drug over a period of time.

Due to the nature of mental illness and drug use, it is important to first determine if the symptoms are caused by the substance or have materialized due to other reasons, such as genetics or traumatic events. Without a proper diagnosis, treatment may appear to be ineffectual in the long- or short-term.

Foundations Recovery Network has specialized facilities that can help you obtain a proper diagnosis and find the treatment that best targets the overall problem. Let us help with the recovery process. Our knowledgeable team is here for you, so call us today at 844-496-9429 to find the best treatment for you.

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