Psychosis explained simply [Introduction to Drug-Indcued Psychosis]
How to Treat Substance Induced Psychotic Disorder
A psychotic episode can result from taking recreational drugs or from an overdose of prescribed medication. In particular, psychosis has been associated with extended use or abuse of cocaine or methamphetamine. Psychedelics can also set off psychotic symptoms, as can withdrawal from ethanol or other substances.Psychotic symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, and strange or erratic behavior.While the psychosis may appear “out of nowhere,” it’s important to recognize what role psychoactive drugs may play in diagnosis and treatment. If substances are found to be the cause of the psychosis, treatment can help.
Responding to the Psychosis Immediately
Identify what caused the psychosis.It’s important to recognize the cause of the psychosis to guide treatment. Psychosis can occur as a result of using or withdrawing from almost any substance, and it does not matter if the person used the substance for a long period or just a short time. If the psychosis occurs as a result of substance withdrawal, treatment should focus on withdrawal symptoms. If psychosis resulted from recreational drugs, it’s important to identify what substances occur within the body to direct treatment.If the psychosis happened from an overdose of prescription medication, then medical treatment should address the overdose. Some of the substances that can cause psychosis include:
- Hallucinogens such as LSD, PCP, and ketamine
- Inhalants such as gasoline, toluene, and butane
- Cold medicines
- Antiepileptic drugs
- Ecstasy (MDMA)
Note the person’s symptoms.Someone who is experiencing psychosis may be behaving in a noticeably strange manner. This is because the effects of the substance or withdrawal from the substance have altered the person’s perception of reality. During the psychosis, the person may experience:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations.
- Delusions, or believing something that is not realistic or reasonable.
- Detachment from reality, such as feeling like you are disconnected from your body or believing that the world is not real.
Ask about suicidal thoughts or behaviors.If someone is experiencing psychosis, the risk for suicide is higher. Certain risk factors that increase the risk of suicidality include having a personal history of suicidal thoughts, previous suicide attempts, and having a family history of suicide.
Address violence.Psychosis can increase the risk of violence toward oneself and others.If someone is displaying violent behavior or threatening to hurt others, seek medical and psychological attention for the person immediately. If the person is attacking or trying to attack you or someone else, then call 911 and try to keep away from the person, such as by getting out of the house and going to a neighbor’s house.
- If possible, remove any hazardous items from the home such as guns, knives, or other potential weapons.
- You may wish to have additional safeguards such as having someone with the person at all times. If the person is acting unsafe in a way that threatens other people’s safety, go to the emergency department or call emergency services. Hospitalization may be necessary.
Seeking Professional Treatment
Go to the hospital.A substance-induced psychotic disorder is often treated the same as a psychotic episode once in treatment. These episodes often include strange behaviors that can harm or interfere with the people around the person with psychosis. Hospitalization may be indicated to monitor behaviors, assure the person’s safety, and to attain proper treatment. Hospitalization is often brief, although ongoing treatment may last longer.
- You may take the person to the emergency department at your local hospital or directly to a psychiatric hospital.
Obtain a psychiatric evaluation.Once at the hospital, a mental health specialist will likely take a psychiatric or crisis evaluation. This evaluation may take place at the emergency department or at the psychiatric hospital. The evaluation directs the person’s treatment and will help all treating professionals give the person the most appropriate care. An evaluator will assess any risks associated with the person’s hospitalization (such as violence or suicide) and will ensure that the person gets proper care.
- A psychiatric evaluation is a quick way to access to necessary care. Recommendations may include psychiatric treatment.
Remove the substance.Typically the substance will be removed under medical supervision. This is important because the person may experience adverse side-effects or withdrawal symptoms as a result of substance removal, so it should be done carefully and with medical observation.
- In most cases, the psychosis will subside or be relieved as a result of substance removal. If this is not the case, then a diagnosis of primary psychosis may be warranted.
Talk with a therapist.While at a psychiatric hospital, the person will likely have a therapist. A therapist can assist a person to cope with distress associated with the episode.Most therapy in a psychiatric setting will focus on coping skills for immediate relief of symptoms. Cognitive behavior therapy helps focus on how thoughts and behaviors that contribute to distress and how to lower that distress. The individual may learn stress reduction skills as part of therapy.
- Cognitive behavior therapy can help with challenging delusional beliefs.
- A therapist can recommend further treatment, especially when hospitalization is complete. This can include ongoing therapy or working with a psychiatrist.
Discuss medication.Even if symptoms are substance induced, medication may be necessary to reduce psychotic symptoms. Medications such as antipsychotics are helpful in stabilizing symptoms such as strange behavior and the experience of hallucinations and delusions. If hospitalized, the person will likely see a psychiatrist regarding medication.
- Once released from hospitalization, ongoing medication treatment may be advised. For more information, check out How to Find a Psychiatrist.
- Substance-induced psychosis often does not require long-term use of medication to treat psychosis.
Treating Ongoing Substance Abuse
Seek drug rehabilitation.Especially if the psychosis resulted from long-term use from recreational drugs such as cocaine, it may be time to consider drug rehabilitation. A medically supervised detox program can help a person wean off from drugs and experience minimal withdrawal symptoms. To minimize the risk of relapse, drug rehabilitation must be considered.
- Drug rehabilitation can treat symptoms resulting from drug use or abuse. It can help set a person on the right path to recovery of a substance-free life.
Find a therapist.Ongoing therapy may be helpful following the event of a substance-induced psychotic episode. A therapist can help optimize overall well-being and help the individual cope in healthy ways outside of using drugs. Things like relaxation exercises, finding stress triggers, and learning coping strategies for stress in the moment can help lower overall distress.
- Therapy may differ depending on what caused the psychosis. If the psychosis resulted from drugs, therapy may focus on addiction.
- For those living with family or a family member, behavior family counseling can greatly increase therapy effectiveness. When families are included, individuals tend to stay in therapy longer and have better long-term outcomes.
Work with a drug counselor.A drug counselor can help the individual work through drug-related problems.Find a counselor who specializes in the specific drug use (such as prescription abuse, cocaine abuse, or methamphetamine abuse). Treatment should help the individual better work with these specific problems and move on positively with his or her life.
Seek community support.Social support can be largely beneficial in aiding treatment of substance problems. Breaking off from social circles of other users can be difficult, so community support (like support groups) can be helpful in making new friends, feeling supported, and giving and receiving advice. Support groups can help in preventing relapse.
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Video: Substance-induced psychosis
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