Drug-Induced Psychosis

Estimated reading time: 31 minute(s)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines psychosis as an episode where an individual moves farther from reality. The condition often includes one or more delusions or false beliefs that an individual believes in despite having enough evidence to contradict them. According to statistics, around 3 in every 100 individuals will experience at least one psychotic episode in their lifetime.

Read Also About Under Age Drinking

While there can be many types of psychosis, drug-induced psychosis remains one of the most common ones. Also known as substance-induced psychosis, the condition includes a set of psychotic symptoms brought on by drug abuse. Not every drug can trigger these symptoms, but it is essential to know about the ones that carry a high risk to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Symptoms of Drug-Induced Psychosis

In most cases, the symptoms of drug-induced psychosis appear gradually and continue becoming intense as the drug’s toxic effects on the brain increase. In the case of people with pre-existing mental health illnesses, the symptoms are far worse and may result in extreme paranoia.

Delusions and hallucinations remain the two hallmarks of drug-induced psychosis, along with other symptoms like:

  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Anti-social behavior
  • Confusion

Delusions refer to false beliefs that a psychotic person may hold onto despite having concrete evidence that contradicts them. Such people may ignore any challenges to their ideas raised by others and may even believe that others are deliberately trying to negate them. Delusions can be of different types, some of which include the following:

  • Persecution Delusions: This type of delusion may make an individual believe that someone is spying on them
  • Jealous Delusions: This type of delusion often involves a partner and may make the patient believe that their partner has been cheating on them despite having no evidence to support this idea
  • Grandiose Delusions: this type of delusion may give an individual an exaggerated sense of power, such as making them believe that they are the mayor of a city or have magical abilities

As the second hallmark of psychosis, hallucinations refer to distorted sensory perceptions relevant to the surrounding environment. These hallucinations can be of different types, depending in the human sense they involve. Some common examples of hallucinations related to drug-induced psychosis include the following:

  • Auditory Hallucinations: This type of hallucination involves hearing voices, such as a single voice narrating all actions or movements of the afflicted individual, or multiple voices talking to each other
  • Visual Hallucinations: This type of hallucination can make an individual see things that do not exist, such as objects, shadows, and people
  • Olfactory Hallucinations: Some people may believe that they are rotting inside or emitting strange odors and may fear that other people can smell it

Which Drugs Can Trigger Drug-Induced Psychosis?

  • Many drugs can lead to drug-induced psychosis, such as:
  • PCP
  • MDMA or Mescaline
  • GHB
  • Prescription medications, like opioids
  • Alcohol
  • Stimulants such as methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy, and nicotine
  • LSD

Let’s look at some of these drugs in more detail:


The psychoactive effects of marijuana are due to its active ingredient, Delta 9-THC. The presence of this active ingredient can also trigger psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, paranoia, feelings of disinhibition, and heightened awareness of sounds, music, colors, taste, etc. Marijuana can trigger acute episodes of psychosis that may last for a few days to even months. The synthetic variants of this drug, such as K2 and spice, can also induce these psychoses and can be much more dangerous.


PCP can cause drug-induced psychosis in two ways. The first way it leads to drug-induced psychosis is by triggering an underlying mental illness, such as schizophrenia or some other type of psychotic disorder. This type of drug-induced psychosis is preventable if you abstain from using PCP from the beginning. The second way PCP can lead to psychosis is when individuals use it in higher doses on purpose to achieve euphoric feelings. The risk becomes exceptionally high when these people mix the drug with other substances, like methamphetamine or cocaine. These drugs can significantly raise the risk of experiencing drug-induced psychosis, which is more intense and harder to control.


Gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, is an artificial synthetic drug commonly used as an industrial-grade cleaner. Also known as a date rape drug, GHB is available in pills, powders, and liquid forms. It is a common part of rave parties because of its strong euphoric properties. Still, few people know its potential to trigger psychosis, especially when taken in large amounts.


3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as MDMA, is a drug taken by many recreational substance abusers to experience a heightened sense of pleasure and euphoria. The drug is prevalent in triggering feelings of empathy, happiness, and love. At the same time, the use of this drug comes with certain drawbacks, often leading to drug-induced psychosis, especially in parties and raves. Since MDMA comes in powder, many people snort it instead of using it conventionally, further precipitating these psychotic attacks.


LSD is famous for inducing changes in sensory perceptions, hallucinations, and severe mood alterations. It possesses the properties of both hallucinogens and stimulants and can easily make its users feel happiness, empathy, love, etc. However, just like other illicit drugs, the use of LSD can trigger substance-induced psychosis, which may alter the perception of reality, putting users’ lives at risk.


Methamphetamines are notorious in every part of the world for their adverse effects on health. As potent psychostimulants, these drugs can easily trigger psychosis in chronic and recreational users. The symptoms of psychosis these medications can trigger closely mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia, a condition sometimes falsely referred to as drug-induced schizophrenia.

How to Treat Drug-Induced Psychosis? What Recovery Options are Available

The exact type of treatment for treating drug-induced psychosis varies according to the kind of substance a person uses. Some of these psychotic episodes are manageable with simple cessation of the offending drug; however, recovery is not easy for most people and typically requires a more intensive drug rehab program.

For such people, chronic drug abuse messes with the neurotransmitter balance in the brain, which, in turn, triggers psychotic episodes, especially when they try to quit cold turkey. In such situations, the management plan revolves around acute stabilization of the patient in addition to managing their symptoms with medications called antipsychotics.

If you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of drug-induced psychosis, it is imperative to seek help immediately. The first step of treatment would be controlling the psychotic symptoms in an emergency room by administering drugs called antipsychotics or benzodiazepines. It is important to remember that these drugs can only control the active symptoms and play no role in preventing these episodes in the future.

Some common medications used for controlling drug-induced psychoses include lorazepam and haloperidol. While these drugs may not be able to eliminate the psychotic symptoms, they can successfully reduce their intensity.

Because drug-induced psychoses commonly occur in people suffering from drug addiction, a large part of the treatment also involves getting over this addiction. For this purpose, the following steps of treatment are necessary:


Detoxification is usually the first step of formal treatment and involves flushing the drug out of the body. The process takes place under strict supervision and monitoring by a medical team, including psychiatrists and nurses, who aim to prevent complications and make patients as comfortable as possible. Detox typically continues for 7 to 10 days, following which patients can successfully overcome their physical element of addiction.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Also known as day rehabilitation programs, partial hospitalization programs help patients by engaging them in structured group support sessions, counseling, and more. Each of these sessions takes place under the guidance of trained and skilled therapists. These programs often provide medical professionals with a way to examine patients from time to time. Many rehabs offer detox services and partial hospitalization program side by side for more effective recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual-diagnosis treatment programs refer to drug rehab programs that address drug abuse and addiction that co-occur with other mental health issues, including drug-induced psychosis. These programs simultaneously focus on both problems through medications and psychotherapy. By doing so, dual diagnosis programs ensure long-term recovery with minimal risk of relapse.


Psychotherapy may occur in the form of one-to-one sessions or group settings. Regardless of the environment, the purpose is to help patients learn more about what drug-induced psychosis is, how it occurs, what triggers it, and how they can prevent it. Moreover, psychotherapy allows them to connect with other people facing similar issues and rekindle their relationships with family to establish a robust support system.


What is the association between drug-induced psychosis and mental health?

Psychosis can trigger multiple damaging effects that target an individual’s mental health. Symptoms like disorganized thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations can negatively affect an individual’s life, especially if they are not treated well. Individuals with specific mental health diagnoses, such as psychotic depression and bipolar disorder, can also experience psychotic episodes. Sometimes, individuals with medical conditions, such as untreated HIV or syphilis, or brain tumors, can also trigger psychotic episodes. Experts believe that a person with a mental illness may experience drug-induced psychosis much easier than others.

How does substance-induced psychosis affect the brain?

Psychosis due to drug use can severely impact the brain as the offending drug can alter its neuroanatomy, neurotransmitter chemistry, and drug receptors. For instance, some drugs trigger psychosis by damaging certain brain structures or inducing toxicity in the brain. The consequent psychosis can significantly impact an individual’s psychological health, making them fearful of attending social gatherings.

How long does drug-induced psychosis last?

Drug-induced psychosis may not always have an ending point, as many people experiencing it may not realize that it is due to their drug use. On average, drug-induced psychoses are much shorter than other psychotic disorders, such as the ones related to schizophrenia. The symptoms usually last for days or weeks in acute drug-related psychosis, whereas chronic issues may continue for months or even years. Unfortunately, experts haven’t yet pinpointed a certain duration for these symptoms.

Is drug-induced psychosis permanent?

Drugs that induce psychosis trigger short-term side effects on an individual’s brain function that typically last between 30 minutes to 24 hours. These short-term symptoms are usually followed by symptoms of withdrawal that may resemble hallucinations and delusional symptoms of schizophrenia. Some of these symptoms resolve without treatment, while others require management with proper medications.

Can schizophrenia be caused by drugs?

Keep in mind that psychosis from drugs can easily become permanent, especially if it remains untreated. Failure to seek treatment can convert this condition into a drug-induced type of schizophrenia, which may linger on for a lifetime.

Get in Touch for Help