How Substance Addiction Leads to Psychosis & What is its Treatment?

What is Substance Addiction?

Substance addiction is a chronic condition in which, despite knowing about the harmful consequences, a person seeks and uses alcohol, drugs, cocaine, heroin, morphine and other opioids or even certain medicines. It is a condition that compels the individual to consume the substance repeatedly, producing certain changes, especially the ones that are associated with altering mental conditions and status.

Substance addiction often makes a person increase the dosage and consequently leads to detrimental physical and psychological condition. The physical problems associated with this are nausea, sleeping problems, weight gain or loss, chronic diseases and even pains and aches throughout the body. The mental problems include anxiety, paranoia, depression and psychosis.

What is Substance Addiction?

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a severe and serious mental disorder that impairs emotions and thoughts to such an extent that the relationship with the reality gets completely lost. The person suffering from psychosis fails to differentiate between perceptions and thoughts. He or she might think the perception to be real, but in reality it would have no basis. The signs of psychosis include hallucinations and delusions.

How Substance Addiction Leads to Psychosis?

Substance addiction and Psychosis are closely associated. When a person is strongly addicted to and dependent on drugs or certain substances like alcohol or medicine, and have been abusing them; or when a person is withdrawing from a serious dependency or addiction, Psychosis is often seen in that person. The conditions in which Substance induced Psychosis may occur are –

  • When a certain drug has been taken in extremely high quantity for a long time
  • When different types of substances are mixed and abused
  • When consumption of a certain drug is abruptly stopped or withdrawal has taken place.

However of course, all these conditions can lead to psychosis only when the individual has been suffering from underlying mental issues and illnesses.

How Long Does Psychosis Due to Substance Addiction Last?

Substance induced Psychosis is a short lasting condition and the episode of psychosis occurs when intoxication associated with drug or substance abuse is high. The episode or the psychotic condition might subside, when the intoxication formed from the substance, reduces. The condition is not a sudden reaction of a substance abuse, but rather a precursor or an indication that a serious mental illness caused by the substance abuse has already taken place and will be worsened, if not taken care of.

When the psychotic symptoms would occur is entirely dependent on the type and extent of intoxication. Certain substances such as cocaine are so strong that abuse of these substances can induce the symptoms within minutes; whereas, in case of alcohol abuse, the symptoms may occur after days or even weeks. When the psychotic symptoms occur within a month of abuse of the substances, it is referred to as the Substance induced Psychosis. The symptoms, associated with the this condition, are –

However, often the major symptoms of Substance induced Psychosis – delusion and hallucination, are misunderstood with schizophrenia.

Once the psychotic episode occurs, it might last for a few days, a few weeks or even for a few years. Those, who are vulnerable to schizophrenia or depression, are actually more likely to get these psychotic episodes. However, it is a matter of debate – whether these substances induce the psychotic episodes or if these substances are used as a self-medication in order to get relief from the existing mental problems.

Different Substances and Addictions That Can Lead to Psychosis

  • Amphetamine Psychosis: The most common or prominent drugs that can induce psychotic episodes are Amphetamine and Methamphetamine. Prolonged abuse of these drugs may lead to psychosis. The symptoms of this kind of psychosis include –
    • Pulling nails, teeth and hair
    • Scratch the body
    • Pick imaginary bugs from bodies
    • Become violent.

Once they stop taking these drugs, the symptoms and psychosis will subside. For some time, even after they have stopped taking these drugs, paranoia may persist and also, every time that they take these drugs further, these symptoms will recur.

  • Cocaine Addiction Psychosis: If one developstolerance for cocaine due to prolonged usage and hence, takesoverdose, psychotic symptoms may occur as a consequence of cocaine consumption. Symptoms of this kind of psychosis include –
    • Paranoia
    • Aggression
    • Irrational violence
    • Agitation
    • Auditory and visual hallucinations.

Those, who are taking cocaine, may suffer from these symptoms for a long time – during the abuse as well as while withdrawing. If they have been sleep deprived, the effects will be more serious.

  • Marijuana Addiction Psychosis: Amongst the many illegal substances that are available worldwide, Marijuana is the most popular one. It ishighly potential of inducing psychosis. The symptoms include –
    • Restlessness
    • Anxiety
    • Unable to concentrate
    • Paranoia
    • Reduced ability to communicate
    • See and hear things that don’t exist
    • Exhibit unusual behaviour.

These kinds of psychotic episodes are often long lasting and may lead to serious and severe mental illnesses, especially if one has mental illnesses and diseases in the family.

  • Alcohol Addiction Psychosis: Along with marijuana and cocaine, this is yet another highly used substance that can lead to psychotic episodes. The symptoms include –
    • Disorganized speech
    • Disorientation
    • Mental confusion.

Schizophrenic patients are more likely to develop these symptoms. People with moderate and heavy drinking habit, do not have these symptoms. They usually have a state of euphoria, decreased impulse control and a next day hangover. To take a note, psychosis is a result of prolonged drinking.

  • Hallucinogens and Psychosis: Lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD, phencyclidine or PCP etc. hallucinogens can lead to psychosis. Hallucinations, panic, paranoia etc. are the common symptoms of this kind of psychosis.

Apart from these substances, there are a few other substances too that can induce psychosis. These include nicotine, many opioids and sedatives. However, the extent of the consumption of these substances that can lead to this mental disorder is not clearly known.

What is the Treatment for Substance Addiction Induced Psychosis?

Substance addiction induced Psychosis can well be treated. There are two methods of treatment. These are –

  • Psychological Therapy for Treating Substance Addiction Induced Psychosis: Psychologists and psychological therapists offer a number of treatments that help patients to overcome their psychotic symptoms. These therapies include –
  • Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • Social and family education
  • Support group therapy
  • Relaxation training
  • Stress and anxiety management
  • Living skill training
  • Employment programs.

The psychologist may create a mental health plan, so that the patient can overcome the difficulties.

  • Medication: Various anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medicines are prescribed by the doctors to minimize the extent of the psychotic symptoms. These medications also help the patients to withdraw their addiction and also control the side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

Lifestyle and Coping Techniques for Psychosis Caused Due to Substance Addiction

Along with treatment, it is also very important that you take care of yourself. The very first thing that one needs to do, apart from identifying the signs and symptoms of psychosis, is to pamper and indulge themselves in things that make them happy. One must take proper rest and take out some time for them, and do enjoyable tasks. Take the medicines properly and also get rid of the substances that have caused psychosis. However of course, withdrawal must always be under guidance and supervision of a skilled medical practitioner. The best way is to stay healthy and happy. In order to stay healthy and happy, you can –

  • Do breathing exercises.
  • Practice some free hand exercises, so that your mindfulness is increased.
  • Relax your muscles with some muscle relaxation exercises and techniques.

Those, who are addicted to substance, need to control their cravings. Though the therapies and the medicinal support can help them do so, it is also very important that the health is taken care of. The patient must always eat properly, without skipping meals. Even if there is less or no desire or hunger, eating is a must. Always stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. Drinking water during craving is very useful. If you are addicted to smoking or drinking alcohol, you can avoid it by chewing gums.


Though coping and controlling and finally treating with psychotic symptoms are possible, it is always important that dependency on any kind of substance is not developed. There are various organizations that work with patients suffering from this mental disorder. These are very helpful as there one can get in touch with others, with the same difficulties.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 5, 2017

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