Meth (the name of Methamphetamine) is a stimulant drug that has extreme effects on the central nervous system. It is highly addictive and can cause short-term as well as long-term damage to the mind and body. One of the common potential side effects of this drug is called meth psychosis, which is a meth-induced mental disorder that causes disturbances in the normal functioning of the user.

What is Meth Psychosis? 

The National Institue of Mental Health defines Psychosis as: 

The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality… During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. 

Often associated with schizophrenia, psychosis can cause a person to experience paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations for a brief period of time. Meth psychosis is when this type of abnormal brain activity happens as a result of extended meth use. 

Meth psychosis means a person using meth has confusion between reality and delusion. They can seem aggressive, panicked, uncomfortable, and display outrageous thoughts and behaviors. They can also seem unable to control their impulses. 

man statue hanging from electrical wires

What Does Meth Psychosis Feel Like?

Many people who struggle (or have struggled in the past) from meth addiction can attest to how scary and dangerous a meth psychosis can be. It’s like the person gets taken over by the thoughts and fears that are not their own, and the drug breaks down their normal ways of behaving. 

Meth users can experience psychosis whether they have pre-existing mental conditions or not. There’s no “one” type of person who gets psychosis over another. The decreased quality of meth throughout America has been studied to have much to do with the increase in cases of meth psychosis. Because most illegal street meth is mixed (or “cut”) with other substances– often some that are unknown– the reaction it has in the brain can be harmful. 

Since meth is a neurotoxin, it can physically damage parts of the brain that are important to healthy cognitive function. Whether or not this type of damage can be reversed is still not known for sure. 

Meth psychosis also includes physical sensations that are part of the hallucinations. “Meth mites” are a common type of delusional side effect that users can sense and feel. There will be an uncontrollable itching, tingling, or stinging sensation on or under his or her skin. This is why many people who struggle with methamphetamine abuse pick, scratch and fidget with their skin or face. They are reacting to the physical hallucination of mites, bugs or parasites digging into the skin. 

Signs of Methamphetamine Induced Psychosis

The most obvious signs of a meth psychosis can have varying effects including: 

  • Delusions of all kinds
  • Visual, Tactile, and Auditory hallucinations
  • Extrapyramidal symptoms (drug-induced physical movement disorders like muscle spasms, twitching, jerking,  jaw clenching, etc.)
  • Obsessive scratching or picking of the skin, arms, face 
  • Irritation 
  • Sores on the skin
  • Hyper-alertness 
  • Paranoia and anxiety 
  • Aggression
  • Violence toward themselves or other people 
  • Unusual behavior 
  • Incoherent babbling, excessive talking that makes no sense (Logorrhea)

blurry woman what it feels like on drugs

How Many Meth Users Experience a Psychotic State?

Dependency on any drug can increase the risk for a mental health disorder, but meth has the greatest risk of psychosis. A study showed an average of 1 out of every 4 people with a meth addiction experience symptoms of psychosis. 

People who have a family history of paranoid schizophrenia have shown to have the highest risk of having a meth psychosis, even after only using several times. 

What Should I Do If Someone I Know Is In A Meth Psychosis? 

The most important thing you can do if a loved one is in a meth psychosis is to stay safe. Usually, someone under the influence of methamphetamine abuse can become hostile. They likely feel victimized and panicked– they might think you’re out to get them in trouble, the FBI is after them, or another type of predator is coming to hurt them. This is part of the delusions and hallucinations meth causes. 

Understand their behavior is going to be unpredictable. If you want to get them help, they might not automatically agree or willingly receive the help they fully need at the moment. Their mind isn’t functioning rationally, so negotiating is likely going to be pointless.

Some steps you can take when confronted by a loved one in a meth psychosis:

  • Try to appear calm 
  • Avoid confrontational argument 
  • Keep a safe physical distance from the person 
  • Call 9-1-1 in private if you feel threatened (inform  authorities of the situation)
  • Remain caring and supportive if he or she is afraid 
  • Avoid direct physical and eye contact
  • Speak calmly 
  • Reassure them you care about them and their safety
  • In the worst-case scenario, leave the situation and find somewhere away from any potential danger or escalated violence

What is the Treatment for Meth Psychosis?

The first solution to overcoming a meth psychosis is to stop using meth. This first part can be tricky because psychosis can happen even after meth abuse has been put to a stop. 

A safer solution to getting through the psychotic state of the meth user is to get help from professionals during detox. Detox and withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamines can be brutal, especially when a person isn’t in his or her right mind. 

Treatments that include medication-assistance can provide antipsychotics that can relieve the worst of the psychosis side effects. Medication-assisted treatment can also help an individual during detox so their withdrawal symptoms aren’t as painful or intense. 

brain impulse control on meth vs normal

Brain scan to show the comparison between normal impulse control (lit up in red) VS meth impulse control.

Inpatient Treatment Programs 

Most chronic meth users need to seek some form of intensive or inpatient treatment. Long-term sobriety is the only sure way to heal from any meth psychosis and stop the cycle of mental abuse. Plenty of licensed drug and alcohol rehab centers are experts when it comes to treating mental health issues alongside drug addiction. Residential programs can be a great start because the person who is coming down from a meth psychosis can have a safe space to readjust, let their mind rewire back to normal, and stay surrounded by supportive medical and interpersonal help. 

What Effects Can Meth Have On Someone? 

A meth psychosis can have harmful effects, whether temporarily or in the long run. Extensive meth abuse over a longer period of time can cause the user to have neurological disorders and complications. 

The brain is malleable, which means it’s possible to change and mold. This includes positive and negative changes depending on how someone treats their mind and body. With certain damages done by substance abuse, cognitive decline is always a possibility. Depending on how heavy or how often someone abuses meth, it can result in memory loss, slowing down of brain processing, decrease in motor functions, and a greater chance of impulsive behavior.

If you or a loved one needs help through a meth psychosis, call us right now at 949-625-4019.

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