What Is Amphetamine Psychosis?

Psychosis is a condition in which a person experiences a disconnect from reality and loses the ability to differentiate psychological processes from real life. Psychosis may or may not be caused by the use of substances. One of the most common forms of psychosis is related to amphetamine use. Amphetamine psychosis is usually brief and will subside soon after a person stops using amphetamines. Psychosis can be caused either by amphetamine use or when use is stopped as a symptom of withdrawal.

Symptoms of Amphetamine Psychosis

Amphetamine psychosis can manifest itself in various ways depending on individual differences, the presence of other mental health conditions, or the effects of combining amphetamines with other substances. Amphetamine psychosis typically produces the following symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Grandiose delusions
  • Visual/auditory hallucinations
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rapid illogical speech
  • Increased/erratic motor activity

Only about 18% of individuals who use amphetamines will experience psychosis related to their use. However, considering that 16 million U.S. adults are prescribed stimulants, this still reflects a significant number of people.

Like all stimulants, amphetamines work on the central nervous system by promoting the release of natural chemicals into the brain, including dopamine and adrenaline. These neurochemicals increase heart rate and blood pressure and improve focus, attention, and alertness.

These effects can be beneficial for people with conditions like ADHD, but they may also induce stress or anxiety. These adverse reactions can exacerbate or directly cause a wide variety of psychological conditions and symptoms, including paranoia and panic. The chances of adverse side effects are especially high when a person uses an excessive amount of amphetamines. When combined with other effects caused by regular amphetamine use, panic and paranoia can lead to full-blown psychosis.

The symptoms of amphetamine-induced psychosis are similar to those of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, which can make it challenging for physicians to distinguish. However, small differences in symptoms can sometimes help doctors determine if an episode of psychosis is, indeed, induced by a substance. For example, visual hallucinations are relatively uncommon with schizophrenia but are often seen in substance-induced psychosis. On the other hand, symptoms of disorganized speech are common in schizophrenia but are less likely to be experienced by those with amphetamine-induced psychosis.

If a person is given antipsychotic medication to address their symptoms, it can further mask the fact that a person’s psychotic symptoms were due to amphetamine use. Moreover, their improvement may be a result of abstinence from drugs and not so much from the medication they are taking.

Amphetamines are cleared from a person’s system within 12–15 hours of discontinuing use, and symptoms usually subside shortly afterward. However, once it occurs, it is not uncommon for amphetamine psychosis to persist as brain chemistry returns to normal over time. These symptoms do not typically last longer than ten days, although some individuals will require 30-60 days for dopamine levels to recover. Extended psychosis among amphetamine users is more likely to occur in those who have abused amphetamines for a prolonged period.

Amphetamine Withdrawal Psychosis

People who use Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, or other prescription stimulants are at risk of experiencing amphetamine withdrawal psychosis. Stimulants can dramatically alter levels of dopamine in the brain. This effect can lead to psychotic symptoms after discontinuing use of the drug, especially when a person encounters additional stress during withdrawal. People who develop psychosis while actively using amphetamines are at a heightened risk of also experiencing psychosis symptoms while undergoing withdrawal.

Symptoms of withdrawal psychosis are comparable to those of active amphetamine use psychosis. Early signs may include agitation and paranoia. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common during the initial “crash” phase of amphetamine withdrawal, which can increase the risk of psychosis. For most people, all symptoms of withdrawal from amphetamines, including those related to psychosis, subside within three weeks.

Amphetamine Psychosis Treatment

In most instances, the most severe symptoms of psychosis related to amphetamine use or withdrawal will dissipate within 1-3 days of discontinuing use. Protracted symptoms are usually much milder and can often be effectively managed at home.

However, many individuals need professional treatment during the initial phase of psychosis, as psychotic symptoms can be dangerous. And people experiencing acute amphetamine intoxication or withdrawal may also require medical care to treat other withdrawal symptoms, such as hyperthermia, dehydration, and high blood pressure.

Getting Treatment for Addiction

Although psychosis related to amphetamine use is relatively brief and does not generally require long-term treatment, people who have suffered from this condition may benefit from addiction treatment to address an underlying amphetamine abuse problem.

Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive, customized addiction treatment programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. We provide services clinically-proven to be vital for the recovery process, including behavioral therapy, peer support groups, counseling, and more.

If you are struggling with an addiction to amphetamines, other drugs, or alcohol, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible to discover how we can help!

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