Meth-Induced Psychosis Vs. Schizophrenia

Methamphetamine or “meth” is a powerful stimulant, and it can have some very specific effects on your body.

One of these effects is psychosis, which is sometimes confused with schizophrenia. If you are experiencing meth-induced psychosis, it is important to understand what is happening to your body and mind, so you can get the help you need and work with your treatment providers to get through it.

Understanding Meth-Induced Psychosis

To understand the similarities and differences between meth-induced psychosis and schizophrenia, let’s take a closer look at what meth is and how it can cause psychosis in people who use meth. Understanding the signs and symptoms of meth-induced psychosis will empower you on your recovery journey.

What is Meth?

Meth or methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant. Meth affects the central nervous system to increase wakefulness, talkativeness, alertness, and energy. It produces a sense of euphoria and is also a powerful appetite suppressant.1

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (USDA) classifies it as a Schedule II stimulant, which indicates that it is highly addictive and has a high potential for misuse.1

Methamphetamine use is a major problem in the United States, and its effects can be life-threatening. Between 2017 and 2019, overdoses involving methamphetamines in the US nearly tripled.2 If you are struggling with meth addiction, treatment is available.

In addition to the potential for overdose, long-term meth use can have severe health consequences. The long-term effects of meth use include:1

  • Problems with thinking
  • A decline in motor skills
  • Becoming increasingly distracted
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive and violent behavior
  • Severe dental issues
  • Psychosis

Let’s take a closer look at psychosis and how meth can cause the condition.

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a medical condition that occurs when a person has lost contact with reality and is not able to think clearly or make rational decisions.3 They struggle to understand what is and is not real. Psychosis is a severe medical condition and can be extremely dangerous, both for the person experiencing it and those nearby.

Approximately three out of every one hundred people in the U.S. will experience psychosis during their lifetime3. Psychosis has a range of causes including genetics, trauma, substance use, physical injury, and a number of mental health conditions.3

Symptoms of psychosis include:3

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there, often voices)
  • Delusions (false beliefs held with extreme conviction that don’t match the patient’s educational, social, or cultural background)
  • Incoherent speech
  • Behavior that is inappropriate for the current situation

When a patient is suffering from these symptoms, it is called a psychotic episode. Psychotic episodes can be scary for both the patient and anyone around them. One patient suffering psychosis described it by saying:

“I find that having psychosis is horrible… I hear very distressing voices all the time and occasionally get weird delusions and see things in a way that other people say are not real.” – Janey.4

A psychotic episode should be treated as a medical emergency.

What is Meth-Induced Psychosis?

A meth-induced psychosis, or “meth psychosis”, is a medical condition that can occur in people who use methamphetamine.5

Psychosis on its own can have a range of causes from genetics to trauma and is not necessarily caused by meth use. So, the term “meth-induced psychosis” describes cases where meth use is the cause of the psychosis.

Meth-induced psychosis is characterized by psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, which occur because of this meth use. Those psychotic symptoms can last for a few hours, or just a few days, and can vary in intensity.5

Signs and Symptoms of Meth-Induced Psychosis

Symptoms of meth-induced psychosis can be the same as other types of psychosis. These signs include:5

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Incoherent speech
  • Inappropriate behavior

These symptoms can be severe if left untreated and can cause a person to be dangerous to themselves or others. If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from an episode of meth-induced psychosis, you should treat it as a medical emergency and call 911 immediately.

Causes of Meth-Induced Psychosis

How does meth cause psychosis?

We know that methamphetamine use changes the brain’s neurotransmitters, which send information around your brain and body.5 These neurotransmitters are vital for normal brain function. So, when meth interferes with your neurotransmitters, you can experience strange and sometimes frightening effects like hallucinations.

Meth use also affects the serotonin pathways in the brain.5 Serotonin plays an important role in human emotions, moods, and feelings. Meth interfering with your serotonin can cause the strange and unpredictable behavior often seen during a psychotic episode, such as when the patient’s mood does not match the current situation.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a devastating and chronic mental disorder that affects between 0.25% and 0.64% of the U.S. population.6 Much like psychosis, it is characterized by changes in the brain that lead to a loss of contact with reality and a loss of normal thinking and the ability to communicate.

The causes of schizophrenia are complex. Risk factors can include genetics, environmental factors such as poverty and extreme stress, nutritional issues or exposure to viruses before birth, and brain structure.7

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Knowing the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia is important to help you get the right kind of help. While the symptoms can vary from person to person, people with schizophrenia generally experience:6,7

  • Disturbances in thinking and perception
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Reduced emotional expression
  • Less motivation to achieve goals
  • Struggling in social situations

Schizophrenia is typically a lifelong disorder. It can affect every aspect of your life, including relationships, employment, and education.

Meth-Induced Psychosis Vs. Schizophrenia

Meth-induced psychosis and schizophrenia can have many similarities. Both are mental disorders characterized by a disconnection from reality. Both disorders can be accompanied by hallucinations and delusions.

But while from the outside meth-induced psychosis and schizophrenia might seem the same, the terms refer to different conditions.

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder with a wide variety of complicated and interconnected causes, which can range from environmental factors to pre-birth nutritional issues and trauma. Whereas meth-induced psychosis refers to a very specific type of psychosis caused directly by meth use.

Can Meth Cause Schizophrenia?

The relationship between meth and schizophrenia is complicated.

Studies have associated meth use with schizophrenia.8 But schizophrenia has several possible causes, including genetics, hormonal fluctuations, trauma, etc. The most common cause of schizophrenia is a combination of a number of these factors,8 and meth use can be one of them.

For this reason, meth use is sometimes included as a contributing factor in the onset of schizophrenia. It is usually not the ONLY cause of schizophrenia but can be a contributing factor.8

Treatment for Meth-Induced Psychosis

Meth-induced psychosis can be a scary and life-threatening condition, but help is available.

In the immediate term, a psychotic episode should be treated as a medical emergency. Call 911 straight away if someone is experiencing a psychotic episode because they could injure themselves or others.

Longer-term, meth-induced psychosis can be a major sign that you need help to detox and recover from methamphetamine use. Treatment for this can include medication, counseling, and other therapies. The severity of your symptoms and the amount of time that you have been using meth will help your healthcare providers to determine the best approach. Your treatment plan should be tailored to your individual needs and situation.

Get Help with Meth Addiction in Palm Springs

If you are struggling with meth-induced psychosis as a result of meth addiction, California Behavioral Health has treatment programs that can help. Our Palm Springs drug rehab facility is led by experienced, highly credentialed professionals who can customize a treatment plan that will meet your individual needs.

Meth-induced psychosis can be a scary and life-threatening condition, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Contact us today to start your journey to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most asked questions are about meth-induced psychosis vs. schizophrenia.

What are the symptoms of meth-induced psychosis?

When psychosis is caused by meth use, the symptoms include:5

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Incoherent speech
  • Inappropriate behavior

Is meth-induced psychosis the same as schizophrenia?

No, meth-induced psychosis and schizophrenia have many similarities, but they are not the same thing. Both are mental health conditions where the patient loses contact with reality and cannot tell what is and is not real.

Schizophrenia is a chronic, lifelong condition with many complicated causes including genetics and trauma. In contrast, meth-induced psychosis specifically refers to psychosis that is caused by meth use.5

Meth can be one of several factors that cause schizophrenia but is not usually the only cause.8

How can I get help for meth-induced psychosis?

Drug rehab centers can offer programs to help you recover from meth-induced psychosis and meth addiction. California Behavioral Health offers a Palm Springs addiction treatment facility, where the experienced staff will tailor a program to your needs.

Is there a test for schizophrenia?

No, there is not currently a laboratory test that can diagnose schizophrenia. Instead, healthcare providers can assess your symptoms through a psychiatric evaluation and conduct tests to help rule out other possible causes of psychosis.9

Resources

1. NIDA. 2021, July 16. What is methamphetamine?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine on 2021, November 29

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, September 22). Methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths nearly tripled between 2015 to 2019, NIH Study finds. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/methamphetamine-involved-overdose-deaths-nearly-tripled-between-2015-2019-nih-study-finds.

3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Fact sheet: First episode psychosis. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/fact-sheet-first-episode-psychosis.

4. Byrne P. (2007). Managing the acute psychotic episode. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)334(7595), 686–692. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39148.668160.80

5. Glasner-Edwards, S., & Mooney, L. J. (2014). Methamphetamine psychosis: epidemiology and management. CNS drugs28(12), 1115–1126. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40263-014-0209-8

6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/schizophrenia.

7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia.

8. Wearne, T. A., & Cornish, J. L. (2018). A Comparison of Methamphetamine-Induced Psychosis and Schizophrenia: A Review of Positive, Negative, and Cognitive Symptomatology. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 491. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00491

9. Schizophrenia. NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia.

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