What is Meth Psychosis? – Methamphetamine, also known as meth, crystal meth, ice, or speed, is a dangerous, addictive, and sometimes deadly drug usually found on the street after being produced in clandestine labs in the U.S. or abroad.
Meth is derived from ingredients extracted from cough and cold medication (pseudoephedrine) and is created when this substance is combined with chemicals and highly explosive materials.
Meth is a central nervous system stimulant, which means that effects include increased heart rate and energy levels, in conjunction with a euphoric high as dopamine, a neurochemical responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward, floods the brain.
One possible and potentially disastrous outcome of meth use is drug-induced psychosis.
What is Meth Psychosis?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, psychosis can be defined as a period when a person is experiencing both delusions and hallucinations. A hallucination is usually visual or auditory, and basically refers to something that is seen, heard, or otherwise sensed that cannot be perceived by others. Occasionally people experience hallucinations that are gustatory (tasting something that isn’t really there) or tactile (something touching you that isn’t.) These perceptions can occur as a result of drug use or mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, dementia, or schizophrenia.
Delusions are also an essential part of psychosis and involve the person having beliefs that don’t appear to be true to others. These could involve paranoia or the belief that something that has nothing to do with them (such as a song playing on the radio) is directed at them specifically. For example, the person may believe they are being watched by the police or FBI.
During meth psychosis, the person may firmly begin to believe that people are out to get them, and they may think that everyday objects are spying on them, equipped with surveillance equipment. Another symptom of meth psychosis is escalating aggression, which occurs as the person’s brain loses the ability to regulate impulses. When people use meth regularly, they also tend to lose the ability to react rationally to events happening around them, and this can lead to aggression and violence.
When people are prolonged meth users, they may begin to show signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior and repeat actions over and over again, such as cleaning at a frenzied pace or washing hands excessively.
This can also contribute to sores that are often visible on the face and bodies of meth users, occurring as a result of scratching or picking at their skin. When a person suffers from meth psychosis, it may end when they come down from the drug, but in some cases, it can last longer than the high itself – even for several days. Unfortunately, brain damage from meth use can leave some people with chronic or permanent psychosis, continuing to occur long after they have discontinued using the drug.
The Causes of Meth Psychosis
Why does meth bring about a high risk of psychosis when compared to other drugs? To begin, meth affects the brain’s natural chemical balance – when someone uses meth, that person is essentially altering the homeostasis of the chemistry of his or her brain, which may ultimately respond in ways that trigger meth psychosis.
Meth use result results in a huge flood of dopamine into the brain. When natural dopamine reserves are depleted, the body becomes unable to produce more. After continued use, meth overstimulates the temporal lobe of the brain, which is believed to cause psychosis, a condition that is experienced by as many as two-thirds of meth users.
In the brain, the amygdala is also impacted, and when stimulated, it can increase fear and induce a “fight-or-flight” survival mode type response.
People who suffer from meth psychosis experience these symptoms because their brain is unbalanced, and as a result, they feel as if they are in danger and need to escape. For many meth users, paranoid symptoms can manifest within just a few months of drug use.
In addition to stimulating brain areas involved with the regulation of emotions and anxiety, using meth also affects the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, which can lead to impulsivity, aggressive behavior, and violence.
Of note, meth psychosis isn’t uncommon – rather, it’s quite prevalent and most people who engage in meth use will, at some point, experience mild-to-severe psychosis.
Treatment for Meth Addiction
Meth addiction is a devastating disease that can destroy the lives of those who use it as well as their families and loved ones. Ideally, treatment should begin with a supervised medical detox that is immediately followed by long-term inpatient treatment that includes evidence-based approaches such as behavioral therapy and counseling.
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