Meth Psychosis and Schizophrenia
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Methamphetamines have been called several slang terms over the years: crank, ice, crystal, etc. Methamphetamines are a very serious drug that can cause major, long-term damage to users. Not only that, but methamphetamine can severely damage one’s mental health through a process called meth-induced psychosis. Meth psychosis can eventually lead to schizophrenia.
The Connection Between Meth Psychosis and Schizophrenia
What is Methamphetamine?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.”1 Methamphetamine comes from a drug called amphetamine that was originally used for nasal decongestants and inhalers. When taken, a high dosage of methamphetamine goes to the brain and has harmful effects on the central nervous system. Some side effects of methamphetamine are increased activity, talkativeness, decreased appetite, and euphoria.1
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis is when the thoughts and perceptions in one’s head become distorted, making it difficult to tell what is real and what is fake. This feeling can be like paranoia symptoms that people with schizophrenia might face. People who are suffering from psychosis can hallucinate, hold onto false beliefs even when evidence disproves them, and struggle to relate to others. Someone struggling with psychosis can put themselves and others at risk because it can cause them to act erratically.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that impacts one’s brain functions.2 There are five different types of schizophrenia, and people can have a variety of different symptoms. These include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, disorganized speech, lack of movement, random hyperactivity, and a lack of motivation. Schizophrenia is a very serious disorder, but with treatment, people can live a functional life.
What is Meth Psychosis?
Meth Psychosis is a psychosis that was developed over time using methamphetamines. Meth psychosis is very common among people who struggle with meth abuse disorder. Approximately 36.5% of methamphetamine users will develop psychosis.3 For the most part, people with meth psychosis suffer from paranoia and hallucinations. Unlike people with schizophrenia, people who are suffering from meth psychosis are more likely to see or hear things that are not there.
Signs and Symptoms of Meth Psychosis
Meth psychosis is very similar to paranoid schizophrenia. Hallucinations and paranoia are likely when someone is struggling with meth psychosis. Many times, one believes that the voices they hear or things they see are coming to harm them. People with meth psychosis tend to have a higher amount of paranoia. Other possible symptoms include:
It can be difficult for a person to notice signs of psychosis in themselves because the nature of the disorder disconnects one from reality. If you or someone you know is struggling with methamphetamine use and these symptoms, it’s a good idea to help them seek treatment.
A recent study found that approximately 25% of people who enter a substance-induced psychosis will be diagnosed with schizophrenia.4 The study found that cannabis, hallucinogens, and amphetamines had the highest rate of transfer. For many people who struggle with drug use, substance-induced psychosis can trigger schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia normally develops in people while they are teenagers or young adults. However, it can sometimes take years to develop. Many times, schizophrenia will be in a residual stage, meaning symptoms are minor or dormant. Meth psychosis can trigger the development of active schizophrenia inside a person.
Currently, drug-induced psychoses represent up to one-quarter of first-time hospitalizations for psychosis.4 Nearly 50% of people with schizophrenia are dependent on either alcohol or drugs. If a person has a family history of psychosis or schizophrenia, they are at an even higher risk of developing the disorder if they use methamphetamines.
Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Several different symptoms can develop over time for people who struggle with schizophrenia. There are five main symptoms overall, and each type of schizophrenia has varying levels of these symptoms.
Delusions are false beliefs not based on reality.5 One will believe things that aren’t a reality, even when given evidence that it is not the case. A lot of times, delusions can be tied together with paranoia.
Hallucinations are when someone hears or sees things that aren’t there. Hallucinations can be voices or images of actual people the person knows, or they can be of a stranger. The most common hallucination is hearing voices.5
Disorganized Thinking and Speech
This symptom mainly affects people with disorganized schizophrenia. This is when a person struggles with effective communication. Some examples would be answering questions partially or with an unrelated answer, putting together meaningless words, or not being able to stay on a topic.
Disorganized or Abnormal Motor Behavior
Someone with this symptom can go from not moving or speaking to hyperactivity within minutes and without any trigger. This could also be displayed through silliness or unpredictable agitation. Some behaviors include “resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.”5
Finally, a person can struggle with negative symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic, “This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally.”5 Many times, a person can neglect self-care or show signs of apathy. A person might withdraw or lose the ability to experience pleasure entirely.
Just like psychosis, it can be difficult for a person to realize they have schizophrenia. Friends and family must look out for signs of this disorder so they can help the person suffering. If any of these symptoms are noticed, especially after an experience with substance-induced psychosis, it is best to seek medical attention right away.
Real-Life Stories That Demonstrate Meth Psychosis
Here are a few testimonies of people who have suffered from meth psychosis.
Ryan loved math and science growing up, and his dream was to become an astronaut. However, he was diagnosed with ADD as a young child, and he started to slip through the cracks at school. He lost his father at age 2, suffered sexual molestation from a babysitter at age 4, and lost his stepfather by 9th grade.
After losing his stepfather, Ryan started using alcohol and marijuana and began skipping classes. Ryan had a few head injuries as a child, which made self-discipline difficult. After a breakup at age 24, Ryan self-medicated with marijuana and crystal meth. After being evicted from his home, he ended up at a house filled with other substance users, and his addiction worsened.
He first experienced meth psychosis later that spring. According to his mom, in ten months, Ryan started stealing, couch hopping, sleeping under a bridge, went missing for periods, and went in and out of the hospital. He witnessed three more psychotic episodes and eventually committed suicide ten months after his first meth psychosis episode. Although Ryan was never diagnosed with schizophrenia, he did suffer from meth psychosis and bipolar disorder.6
Mark grew up in Ontario, Canada. He started using methamphetamines in his late 20s when he began working in construction. He was upset that he couldn’t keep up with the other workers even though he was fit. They gave him meth, a stimulant, to keep up. Mark started experiencing paranoia right away. At his low point, two to three grams of methamphetamine would enter Mark’s system a day.
He showed signs of meth psychosis through his high levels of paranoia. For a while, he thought the Roman army was trying to kill him. He stated that he stopped trusting people and thought someone was always chasing him. Soon, he began cooking the drug. Mark was eventually arrested while in California.
It wasn’t until years later, in 2007, that Mark would start his recovery process while in an Idaho prison. His grandmother and mother inspired him to start. He has been sober since and now works as a drug counselor helping others find their path to recovery.7
Treating Meth Addiction with Psychosis and Schizophrenia
There are a few ways to start recovery from meth addiction after entering psychosis. It isn’t an easy road, but it is possible. Here are a few tools that you can use:
Residential treatment is when an individual with serious emotional and behavioral issues lives in a facility where they can be supervised by trained staff members and counselors.8 This is an intensive program to help people recover from meth addiction and address their mental health. Many times, residential treatment will include individual and group therapy, recovery meetings, and comprehensive evaluations.
Detox normally takes about 50 hours, but symptoms can last for weeks or months. Although detox is difficult, it is the first step to recovering from meth psychosis and treating schizophrenia. It is best to have medical and counselor supervision during this time.
Therapy is essential to overcome both meth psychosis and schizophrenia. Studies show that people with schizophrenia who see a therapist and use the proper medication are less likely to have symptoms and are more likely to live a normal life. Therapy can help someone with substance use disorder continue their process of recovery. Meth psychosis can cause a lot of paranoia, so trust might be an issue early on. However, therapy will give you the second voice necessary to work through what is reality and what is a potential hallucination. All of these methods together are a good way to start recovery.
It is important to seek professional help when going through meth psychosis or schizophrenia. If you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out. Recovery is the only route to prevent further mental health damage. Overall, a good therapist you can trust and potentially a residential treatment facility are the best routes to go. Consult a doctor if you feel like you might be struggling with symptoms of meth psychosis or schizophrenia.