Paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations — meth psychosis can be terrifying, and anyone who’s gone through it will tell you it’s something you don’t want to experience. However, if you’re abusing meth, there’s a good chance that you will have meth psychosis at some point. Studies show between 21% and 46% of meth users will have at least one methamphetamine psychosis episode in their lives.
What Is Meth Psychosis?
Chronic meth users are at risk for meth psychosis, also known as amphetamine psychosis. Methamphetamine abuse causes brain changes that can flip your high from euphoria to a bout of meth paranoia. Meth psychosis and schizophrenia share some of the same symptoms. The experience can be very scary and unsettling to someone going through it and the people around them.
Symptoms of meth psychosis may include:
- Seeing and hearing things that aren’t there.
- Intense anxiety and paranoia.
- Violent behavior.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Not making sense when speaking.
When meth-induced psychosis occurs, you may also experience meth mites or “crank bugs.” This is the sensation of bugs crawling on your body. Some crystal meth users say they also have visual hallucinations, believing they see the bugs as well.
What Causes Meth Psychosis?
Meth causes your brain to produce extreme amounts of dopamine, which is sometimes called the “feel-good chemical.” Excessive dopamine produces the sense of euphoria from drug abuse. It’s also a chemical tied to several important body functions like brain functioning, motivation, movement, reproduction, and reward.
The overproduction of dopamine can cause psychosis from meth abuse. Your brain eventually becomes depleted of dopamine, which interferes with the brain’s communication to parts of the body. The effect of methamphetamine on your limbic system also contributes to meth paranoia. The limbic system is tied to emotions, and meth psychosis can trigger feelings like intense anxiety.
How to Help Someone With Meth Psychosis
The time it takes to come out of a meth psychosis varies. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, often meth paranoia may only last until the drug has left your system. Other times, you develop psychosis as a part of meth withdrawal, which can last a few days as the brain tries to rebalance itself. There are some meth users who will experience psychosis symptoms for months or even years after quitting meth.
There isn’t an antidote for meth-induced psychosis. Sometimes doctors will prescribe medications to help with long-term psychotic symptoms, but most times it is a matter of waiting the symptoms out. The best thing you can do for someone experiencing meth psychosis is keep them safe and try to get them help for their addiction. They are incapable of rational thought during a psychotic episode, and they may be confused and delusional. Here are a few things you can do during a meth psychosis:
- Stay calm so you don’t trigger them.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Take them to a space that doesn’t have a lot of visual or auditory stimulation.
- Don’t tell them that what they are seeing, hearing, or feeling isn’t real.
- Call 911 if they are violent or in physical danger.
- Once the episode has passed, encourage them to enter addiction treatment.
Why You Need Treatment for Meth Addiction
Meth doesn’t just put you at risk for psychotic symptoms. It’s a dangerous and deadly drug that kills thousands of people every year. Deaths involving methamphetamine have been climbing steadily since 2012. In 2019 alone, there were 16,167 meth deaths.
The DEA classifies methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug. This means meth has a high potential for abuse and can be very dangerous. It also means you can develop severe psychological and physical dependence on meth.
Meth addiction is extremely difficult to overcome without professional help. Some meth users say they became addicted after the first time they used it. People who experience a meth high want to achieve that high again and again. Meth produces more dopamine than other stimulants like cocaine, and the high lasts longer. As you continue to abuse meth, it’s more difficult to get that same high though. Your body quickly develops a tolerance to it. The brain produces excessive amounts of dopamine that start depleting your natural supplies of this chemical. Dopamine plays an important role in many functions. When levels are off balance, you experience meth withdrawal symptoms. This keeps you in the addiction cycle, trying to prevent meth withdrawal.
Many meth users have co-occurring mental health disorders. Mental illnesses that often co-occur with meth addiction include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. This is known as a dual diagnosis, and an addiction treatment center treats both conditions together, which helps prevent relapse.
Substance abuse treatment also provides drug detox, so you’re supported by health care professionals during this process. They can prescribe medications to help ease physical discomfort from meth withdrawal. A medical team will also monitor you around the clock and can keep you safe in the instance of meth psychosis and other concerning symptoms. A treatment center physician might prescribe antipsychotic medications as appropriate. In some cases, antipsychotic medications can exacerbate psychosis symptoms so it’s important these are prescribed and monitored by a physician.
How Do You Treat Meth Addiction?
Research shows these approaches are useful in treating meth abuse:
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Exercise and other structured activities
- 12-step groups
- Drug testing
- Contingency management
Relapse rates for meth addiction are high without long-term drug rehab and aftercare. Many meth abusers will need inpatient meth treatment to prevent relapse. Residential care provides distance and space from triggers. Medical and behavioral health professionals provide specialized treatment that get to the root causes of addiction.
Footprint to Recovery provides medical detox and several levels of care. Our treatment team is highly experienced and passionate about helping you begin your recovery. Treatment is evidence-based and addresses co-occurring disorders, trauma, and other conditions that contribute to substance abuse. We’ll tailor your treatment plan to your individual needs, preferences, and recovery goals so treatment is both effective and engaging. Our programs include:
- Medical detox programs
- Residential treatment
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- Outpatient program
- Sober-living residences
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, call us for a free, confidential consultation. We’ve helped thousands of people take back their lives from substance abuse. We can help you too.