Amphetamine-induced psychosis is a delusional state caused by amphetamine abuse; it is a chronic disorder with a gradual onset. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and altered states of consciousness. Most of the features of amphetamine psychosis are similar to schizophrenia. Amphetamines include substances such as cocaine, crystal meth, and some prescription medications, such as Adderall. The altered perception of reality often causes the user to become paranoid. A state of paranoia can eventually lead to delusional thinking, especially delusions relating to persecution, and a sense of being “pursued”. The delusions, when maintained over time through chronic use, can lead to bizarre, sometimes violent, and often dangerous behaviors.
Amphetamine induced psychosis develops when a user begins using habitually, over extended periods, presenting after several weeks or months of chronic use. However, there are some exceptions to this rule as some people may not develop it even after years and others may have it after only a couple weeks. As people develop tolerance to the amphetamine, they increase the amount of substance and regularity of use, further worsening their condition.
Symptoms of Amphetamine-Induced Psychosis
Sharing a symptomology with schizophrenia, amphetamine psychosis presents diagnostic difficulties for doctors; if amphetamine abuse is not discovered, schizophrenia may be diagnosed. There are some cases where patients have both the disorders at the same time, or co-morbidity. Evidence supports a theory that occurrence may be resulting from the same pathological progression of both the diseases. It is believed that schizophrenia is linked with dopamine levels and activity; amphetamines enhance the effects of dopamine, hence both diseases involve the same process. In this regard, amphetamine-induced psychosis can be termed as artificially stimulated schizophrenia.
Some factors increase the probability of amphetamine psychosis. Risk for developing amphetamine psychosis is increased by physical illness, use of other drugs, aging and any kind of substance abuse. The symptoms worsen until amphetamine intake is discontinued. Symptoms of amphetamine psychosis depend upon the amount and duration of amphetamine intake and general health of the person. Due to physiological variations and different durations, the symptoms of amphetamine-induced psychosis vary between people. The major symptoms of amphetamine psychosis are dry mouth, increased sweating, excitement, increased heart rate, chest pain, palpitations, hallucinations, irritability, dilated pupils, euphoria, difficulty sleeping and a feeling of power and superiority.
Treatment of amphetamine-induced psychosis involves medical attention, in extreme cases. Stabilizing the person is the first priority, as heart rate and blood pressure may be dangerously high. After stabilization, doctors may perform a procedure known as a gastric lavage or emesis to remove the unabsorbed amphetamine from the gut. Ammonium chloride is then administered to counter the intoxicating effects of amphetamine. For extreme cases of amphetamine-induced psychosis, Haldol, a preferred antipsychotic among many emergency room physicians is given to treat severely psychotic patients. Beta-blocker drugs are also used to treat the cardiac symptoms that are a common part of amphetamine psychosis.