What is Amphetamine Psychosis? - Harmony Oaks Recovery Center
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What is Amphetamine Psychosis?

What is Amphetamine Psychosis?

Understanding Amphetamine Psychosis

Amphetamine psychosis is a terrifying experience for the victim and anyone they might encounter during an episode. This post is designed to deepen your understanding of the consequences of methamphetamine use and prepare you to handle the aftermath of a potentially traumatic event. People who suffer from psychosis experience a disconnect from reality and their surroundings. They lose the ability to differentiate between the empirical world and things that are manifesting in their psyche. While psychosis can be triggered by various factors such as mental disorders, chemical imbalance in the brain, or even diseases such as malaria or HIV, one of the most common causes for psychosis is ingesting amphetamines. The condition is subsequently known as amphetamine psychosis. Studies strongly suggest that there is a direct correlation between certain forms of drug use and the development of acute psychosis. Healthy individuals with no history of psychosis can develop symptoms of the condition after even a very small dose . On average, the symptoms of acute psychosis begin to manifest after taking around 100-300 mg of amphetamine. Furthermore, around 46% of regular users develop drug-induced psychosis.

Forms of Amphetamine Psychosis

There are two forms of psychosis that arise as a result of amphetamine use. The more common form is amphetamine psychosis. This condition comes about after a person has ingested a significant amount of amphetamines. However, it is short-lived and the symptoms subside after the person stops taking amphetamines. However, an amphetamine overdose can cause symptoms to persist ever after the drug is flushed out of the person’s system. The second form is known as amphetamine withdrawal psychosis. Generally, this is experienced by people in rehab, and it is more likely to occur in long-time users.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of this condition can manifest in different ways and varying degrees of severity, depending on factors such as the presence of mental health conditions and the amount of the drug that’s been ingested. Taking other substances in conjunction with amphetamines can also cause symptoms to worsen. This is one of the reasons that this form of psychotic break is difficult to diagnose. Here are some of the general symptoms that appear during these psychotic episodes:
  • Feelings of agitation and paranoia
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Rapid and disorganized speech
  • Difficulty in logical or rational thinking
  • Erratic movements
  • Delusions
In the US, around 16 million adults are prescribed amphetamines for medical conditions narcolepsy and ADHD. Of this number, approximately 18% will experience amphetamine psychosis. However, this number significantly increases for people with amphetamine addiction or those who ingest the drug for pleasure. This is mainly because amphetamine overdose is more common for these two groups.

Amphetamine Withdrawal Psychosis

When people stop using stimulants of any form, they are at risk of experiencing amphetamine withdrawal psychosis. The loss of the stimulant drug affects the production of dopamine in the brain. The withdrawal period can be dangerous and unpredictable, and rehab should be considered for those who need to undergo a long detox process. Many of the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal psychosis are similar to the symptoms of amphetamine-induced psychosis. However, since sleep problems such as insomnia and restless leg syndrome are common during the early stages of detox, the symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal psychosis can be exacerbated. The lack of sleep, for example, can cause a person to be more susceptible to hallucinations and delirium. As with amphetamine-induced psychosis, the length of time during which amphetamine withdrawal symptoms will manifest will depend on several factors such as overall health, the presence of other mental health disorders, and the severity of the amphetamine use.

A Difficult Diagnosis

Amphetamine psychosis is difficult to diagnose because it shares symptoms with other disorders, aside from amphetamine withdrawal psychosis. In some cases, amphetamine-induced psychosis can even lead to a person developing schizophrenia. This can hold true even if the person has never shown signs of schizophrenia before. A trained physician can determine the difference between amphetamine-induced psychosis and schizophrenia because there are small signs that characterize each. Visual hallucinations are a common symptom of amphetamine psychosis, but it is not common for schizophrenia. Conversely, those who suffer from schizophrenia feel as if they are being targeted, which is not commonly observed in those who have amphetamine psychosis.

Best Practices for Treatment

Treatment  is most effective when it is tailored to a person’s specific condition. There is no “one size fits all” treatment. Some people may take a week or so to complete the detox process, while others may need longer amounts of time. In fact, mild amphetamine users generally find that their symptoms subside naturally once they stop using. Any lingering symptoms can safely be managed at home, as long as they follow a prescribed treatment plan. However, many people may need rehab during the initial phase of their treatment. This is because this is often the period when severe withdrawal symptoms emerge. These symptoms can be dangerous if not monitored properly. Many rehab centers even recommend interventions to prevent people from acting on their paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations. Aside from the difficult mental rehab process, medical treatment might also be necessary during this period. Conditions such as high blood pressure, hypertension, and severe headaches are common, and they can be dangerous to people with co-morbidities. Finally, drugs might also be prescribed to help ease the symptoms during treatment. Antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol and olanzapine are used to reduce hallucinations and delirium. Benzodiazepines help to reduce agitation and lower the risk of seizures.

Exploring Your Treatment Options

If you or someone you love has experienced the horrors we’ve detailed here, it’s imperative to find treatment right away. While exploring your options, find out which facilities use evidence-based methods and mark them off as superior choices to those that don’t. It’s also important that the treatment center you choose customizes their programs to meet you or your loved one’s specific needs. Amphetamine psychosis is a sure sign that the victim has progressed deeply into their addiction. Once someone has reached this point, only the best treatment will do. If you or someone you care about needs help with addiction or mental health, please seek help right away.
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