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Drug Induced Psychosis

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the scream


As the name implies, or rather clearly states, this is the manifestation of psychotic symptoms resulting from the use of certain drugs.  


These psychotic symptoms are very similar to those listed in the  section on ‘psychotic disorders’, and in the introduction on 'Psychosis', though some may be more common than others and some more closely related to a specific drug. For example, Paranoia & Grandiosity are often linked to Marijuana (MJA) usage, particularly if the strength is greater & quality is better. Buds and hydroponic MJA is substantially more potent.


With the advent of more & more readily available ‘recreational drugs’ such as ‘Ecstasy’ & ‘Crystal Methamphetamine’, there has been a marked increase in psychosis. Crystal Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth, Ice, Fire, Jib, Chalk) poses a significant risk to the user, partially because it’s relatively inexpensive, easy to find and can be made in home laboratories (though generally this is a ‘mix of drugs’ & not pure Methamphetamine).


‘Crystal Meth’ can be snorted, smoked, ingested & injected. It is a potent stimulant that provides the user with an incredible ‘rush’ characterized by increased energy, activity & sex drive. Unfortunately other effects such as paranoia, confusion, agitation & violence can accompany its use along with physical signs such as ‘grinding of teeth’ & ‘obsessive picking at one’s body’; all of which can last between 8 to 24 hours. Depression & anxiety can result from its withdrawal.



Paranoia– This is fairly straight forward, though the term is often misused and casually mentioned to describe a ‘worried’ ‘fearful’ anxiety or personality type. Paranoia, of a psychotic type, is more severe and not based on any logic or in reality. A person may feel they are ‘being followed’ or ‘everyone is out to get them’, or ‘someone is trying to kill them’ etc. Paranoia can drive someone to aggression or violence, due to their irrational fear. It can be defined as:- 'an unfounded belief that you are being persecuted, pursued, that people are out to get you, kill you etc., or anything unsoundly based, or without any logic or evidence, along these themes'


Addiction to ‘Crystal Meth’ is common and its continued use results in severe weight loss, malnourishment, serious cognitive impairment & even structural changes to the brain. Treatment resistant psychotic illnesses may also develop. An estimated 10 to 20% of ‘Crystal Meth’ users develop psychosis.


As with most substances that can produce psychosis, its withdrawal or cessation does not necessarily mean the symptoms will stop. They may last long after the drug has been withdrawn and with heavy long term users, the effects may be largely permanent.


An alarming statistic in relation to the current stream of drugs in our society is that 3% of young people will experience a psychotic episode, making it more common than diabetes. These psychotic episodes are not specifically restricted to a ‘drug induced’ type, though the effect of using illicit substances puts more at risk.


Another common by-product of illicit drug use (particularly stimulant drugs) is that of extreme aggression & violence. When combined with psychosis (especially of a strong paranoid or grandiose flavour), the outcomes can be extremely dangerous. There have been many reported deaths violently psychotic people; by their own hand & by others, including police.   


Drug Induced Psychosis


Many 'Mental Health Nurses' & other clinicians working in acute mental health units, have seen first hand the effects illicit drugs can have on an individual. The resultant psychoses can be extreme & dangerous. It is also becoming increasingly prevalent with our emergency departments being bombarded with more & more volatile & psychotically unwell people who have partaken in a variety of illicit drugs.


The management & treatment of these people is not something you would wish for yourself or anyone else. Hospitalisation & containment, seclusion & restraint, chemical intervention through medication which is often given against your will are but some of the methods needed to manage the manifested psychotic symptoms. There is no time frame for ‘coming down’ or becoming well; it could be days or weeks and there may be permanent damage as a result.


Do not think that it couldn’t happen to you or that it is restricted to only certain types of drugs and in certain quantities. There is no guarantee of anything once you have made the decision to put an ‘alien’, ‘man-made’, harmful substance in your body.


Illicit drugs can result in the development of psychotic symptoms and sometimes a permanent illness. The symptoms & effects of abuse may be short or long term, vary in severity and the risks are high. The possibility of dependence is a serious matter to be considered whenever you decide to use; never mind the health risks and social, physical, emotional & psychological consequences.


If you feel you may have a problem with drug use & abuse, then you need to seek professional help. This may be difficult to do, but very necessary if you wish to prolong your quality of life. Sometimes it might help to discuss your issues with a friend, family or someone you trust. That will enable you to take the next step toward getting assistance with the serious issue of drug abuse.



Ask yourself the following questions: 




  • Do I need to take these drugs to feel better? 


  • Why do I take these drugs? 


  • What are the immediate & long term negative effects of the drug? (include the social effects & effects on your career) 


  • Do the positive effects of the drug outweigh the negative?  


  • What are the possible consequences of continuing to use?  


  • What are the advantages in reducing or ceasing my drug use?  


  • What can I do to substitute for the positive effects I experience?  


 Brain in a box


Should you have concerns regarding any issue relating to your 'mental or physical well-being', 'Kick off' strongly recommend you seek professional assistance. This may entail contacting your GP or similar clinician (Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor etc.). You may also contact the appropriate agency or service that might assist you. Irrespective of your choice, ensure you see someone who might help. 

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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
Senior Psychologist/Director
ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
1728 Broadway, Suite 1
Hewlett, NY 11557







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