What is amphetamine psychosis?
Psychosis is a state in which a person experiences a temporary disconnect from reality and loses the ability to distinguish internal psychological processes from external events. Psychosis can be experienced on its own or as a symptom of a mental health condition. Certain substances can also trigger psychosis symptoms.
One of the most common types of substance-induced psychosis is amphetamine psychosis. Like other types of substance-induced psychosis, amphetamine psychosis is relatively short-lived and typically subsides once the individual stops using amphetamines. However, some cases may persist after amphetamines are out of a person’s system. Amphetamine psychosis typically arises in one of two forms: amphetamine-induced psychosis and amphetamine withdrawal psychosis.
Amphetamine Psychosis Symptoms
Amphetamine psychosis may manifest in different ways based on individual differences, the presence of other psychiatric conditions, or the effects of combining amphetamines with other drugs. However, amphetamine psychosis usually produces the following symptoms:
- Disorganized thinking
- Difficulty concentrating
- Rapid, often illogical speech
- Increased or erratic motor activity
- Poor insight into causes of symptoms
- Extreme agitation
- Paranoid delusions
- Grandiose delusions
- Visual hallucinations
- Auditory hallucinations
Only about 18 percent of people who use amphetamines ever experience amphetamine psychosis symptoms. However, given that 16 million adults in the United States are prescribed stimulants and half a million Americans use methamphetamines every week, this still represents a significant number of people.
Like all classes of stimulants, amphetamines work by activating the sympathetic nervous system and promoting the release of natural stimulant chemicals into the brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. These chemical messengers elevate heart rate and increase blood pressure, improving focus, alertness, and attention.
While these effects can be helpful for individuals with conditions like attention hyperactivity disorder, they may also cause stress or anxiety. These adverse reactions can aggravate or induce a wide range of psychological disorders and symptoms, including paranoia or panic. The chances of adverse amphetamine side effects are particularly high when using large amounts of amphetamines. When combined with other changes caused by amphetamine addiction and abuse, panic and paranoia can progress to psychosis.
The symptoms of amphetamine psychosis resemble symptoms of chronic psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, which makes it hard for physicians to immediately tell the two conditions apart. Minor differences in symptom profiles can sometimes help clinicians determine if an episode of psychosis is substance-induced. For example, visual hallucinations are relatively rare in schizophrenia but are more common in substance-induced psychosis. Conversely, symptoms of disorganized speech and avolition that are common in schizophrenia are less likely to occur in amphetamine psychosis.
However, these subtle differences aren’t always apparent. People who exhibit symptoms of amphetamine psychosis may initially be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia or other chronic psychotic disorders. In some cases, they may even be sent to inpatient psychiatric treatment with the wrong referral diagnosis. When these individuals are given antipsychotic drugs to treat their symptoms, it can take clinicians even longer to realize that their psychotic symptoms were substance-induced. Improvement may be associated with the effects of the antipsychotic medication rather than the one factor consistently associated with recovery from amphetamine psychosis: time.
Amphetamines are eliminated from a person’s system within 12–15 hours of stopping use, and symptoms typically subside shortly afterward. However, once induced, it is not unusual for amphetamine psychosis to persist as brain chemistry gradually returns to normal. These symptoms rarely last longer than ten days, though some people may require one to two months for dopamine levels to recover. Extendedamphetamine psychosis is more likely to occur in people who have used amphetamines for long periods.
What is amphetamine withdrawal?
Are amphetamine withdrawal symptoms your biggest fear? Fearing these symptoms can keep you in addiction’s hold. However, the way out of these ill symptoms is through a quality detox and rehab treatment program.
Specifically, amphetamines are stimulants of the central nervous system. This means the drugs in the amphetamine category stimulate or speed up your body’s natural functioning, particularly when it comes to the brain and spinal cord. You can buy these drugs on the street or abuse prescription drugs, such as in the case of Adderall addiction.
You start feeling amphetamine withdrawal symptoms when you reach addiction. Moreover, your brain relies on having amphetamines in your system at this point to function properly. If you stop taking the drugs, you’ll feel the ill effects of withdrawal, which is your body’s cue to give it more of what it wants. It’s also the result of your brain and body trying to adjust to functioning without the drugs it became dependent on.
You fear these amphetamine withdrawal symptoms because they are unpleasant. Some of these effects include depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, concentration problems, and appetite changes. You oftentimes feel a crash after stopping your dose for about two days. However, these light symptoms soon give way to more intense amphetamine withdrawal symptoms by day two or three of detox.
Your more intense amphetamine withdrawal symptoms last around five days. During withdrawal, you need help from a quality detox and rehab treatment program, one able to provide safe and professional detox. In addition, this type of program also helps you get through the worst symptoms using helpful medications and other services.
Adderall Withdrawal and Amphetamine Psychosis
People who use Adderall or other prescription stimulants are at risk of experiencing amphetamine withdrawal psychosis. Stimulants can significantly alter levels of dopamine in the brain, which can cause psychotic symptoms after the use of the drug is discontinued, especially when people experience additional stressors during the withdrawal period. Individuals who experience amphetamine psychosis while using amphetamines are at an increased risk of psychosis symptoms during amphetamine withdrawal.
The symptoms of withdrawal psychosis are similar to symptoms of active amphetamine use psychosis. Early signs of withdrawal psychosis may include physical or psychological agitation and paranoia. Insomnia and other sleep problems are common during the initial “crash phase” of amphetamine withdrawal, which can heighten the risk of delirium and psychosis. For most people, all symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal, including psychotic symptoms, dissipate within three weeks.
Signs of Amphetamine Addiction
There are multiple ways of recognizing amphetamine addiction, including physical and mental symptoms and changes in behavior as described here:
- Visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations
- Inability to keep up with work, school, or home responsibilities
- Much of the person’s time spent seeking or using the drug
- Missing pills from a prescription
- Changes in groups of friends and difficulties with relationships
- Loss of interest in previous activities
In the case of methamphetamine, dental problems, skin sores, and severe weight loss are highly visible signs that the drug is being abused, as described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Amphetamine withdrawal includes a week of mild and moderate symptoms. Once you break through these ill effects in detox, you enter rehab for lengthier treatment of your addiction’s root causes.
Common amphetamine withdrawal symptoms for amphetamines include:
- Slow reactions and movements
- Aches and pains
- Agitation, irritability, nightmares, and depression
- Fatigue and intense sleepiness
- Increased appetite
- Twitches and other body movements
Your amphetamine withdrawal experience is unique to you. Therefore, your health, mental condition, length of addiction, dosage, genetics, biology, and other factors determine how your amphetamine withdrawal proceeds and feels. The process is usually not life-threatening. Being in a professional detox helps you gain the medical supervision and comforts you deserve. This also keeps you safe from relapse during amphetamine withdrawal, a common problem when going through the symptoms at home.
You can also experience PAWS, post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which is a withdrawal that lasts longer than two weeks. Some, such as anxiety or depression, last as long as a year. PAWS effects include short-term memory problems, inability to concentrate, attention problems, lost self-control, depression, suicidal thoughts, and inability to feel pleasure. Some of the other PAWS effects are fatigue, sleep problems, drug cravings, and physical complaints.
Amphetamine Psychosis Treatment
Amphetamine psychosis treatment is usually pretty simple. In most cases, the symptoms of amphetamine psychosis subside on their own over time. The most severe symptoms of amphetamine-induced or amphetamine withdrawal psychosis tend to dissipate within one to three days of discontinuing amphetamine use. Prolonged symptoms are usually milder and can often be managed safely at home.
However, many people need inpatient treatment during the acute phase of amphetamine psychosis, as severe psychotic symptoms can be dangerous. Many inpatient interventions focus on preventing people from acting on delusional thoughts. People experiencing acute stimulant intoxication or withdrawal may also require additional medical care to address other withdrawal symptoms, including hyperthermia, dehydration, or high blood pressure.
Research shows that antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia and other chronic and organic psychotic disorders, such as haloperidol (Haldol) and olanzapine (Zyprexa), can reduce symptoms of amphetamine psychosis. Benzodiazepines may also be administered to reduce agitation and treat or reduce the risk of seizures. However, because these drugs also carry potentially dangerous side effects, many clinicians resist using them unless necessary.
Often, the most important component of the treatment plan for amphetamine psychosis is a referral to a substance abuse treatment program. Many people whose amphetamine use has progressed to the point of psychosis live with a substance use disorder and require intervention to begin the recovery process.
Reclaim Your Life From Amphetamine Psychosis
Many people need inpatient treatment during the acute phase of amphetamine psychosis, as severe psychotic symptoms can be dangerous. Amphetamine addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide to you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this condition with a professional and safe detox process to ease amphetamine withdrawal symptoms. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Bramness JG, Gundersen ØH, Guterstam J, Rognli EB, Konstenius M, Løberg EM, Medhus S, Tanum L, Franck J. amphetamine-induced psychosis–a separate diagnostic entity or primary psychosis triggered in the vulnerable? BMC Psychiatry. 2012 Dec 5;12:221. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-12-221. PMID: 23216941; PMCID: PMC3554477.