There are a handful of mental illnesses that come with psychosis as a major symptom. For instance, extreme depression can include psychosis. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can also include psychosis. And of course, schizophrenia is a psychotic illness, with symptoms of hallucinations and delusions. Some people are fortunate enough to not suffer from these mental illnesses. And yet, if they use illicit drugs enough, their psychological health might be so affected that they too experience psychosis.
Psychosis is considered to be an experience of the mind (psyche) characterized by the loss of contact with reality. In other words, people experience hallucinations or delusions that can make them feel as though they are experiencing another reality. Of course, for some people, this is exactly the experience they’re looking for. People who take LSD, for instance, want to experience the other-worldly phenomena of hallucinations. However, there are some dangers to illicit drugs, and if they are taken often enough they can jeopardize one’s psychological health.
For instance, the following drugs can increase the risk for psychosis:
Cocaine – This drug and other amphetamines can create psychotic experiences that last not only hours, but days. The high of cocaine actually only lasts a short period, but it’s the continued use of the drug that can impair the functioning of the psyche. In addition to psychosis, other long-term effects of cocaine include memory loss and problems with concentration. Studies show that the risk of psychosis and other ill-effects of cocaine use increase with intravenous (injection by needle) use of the drug.
Alcohol – Heavy alcohol use, especially when used over a period of time, can create experiences of psychosis. For instance, an alcoholic might experience delusions, disorientation, disorganized speech, and even hallucinations. However, typically, these experiences go away with sobriety. Yet, continued use of heavy drinking can also impair the psyche and create risks for psychotic experiences. For those who already have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, alcohol is one of the most widely abused drugs.
Hallucinogenics – Other drugs, such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and PCP (phencyclidine) affect people in such a way that it mirrors a psychotic experience. Users experience hallucinations and delusions. They might have visions, hear voices, or step into another world altogether. These drugs, because they have such an effect, can affect the psyche with long-term use. These drugs are not shown to induce psychosis after the first use but repeated use of these drugs can be dangerous.
It’s hard for clinicians to tell the difference between whether someone was already prone to psychosis before using drugs. However, there are signs that can indicate the gradual growing risk for psychosis in someone who continues to use illicit drugs. Aside from experiencing hallucinations and delusions, these signs can include:
- Changes in emotions, particularly having no emotional expression or emotional appearance
- Lethargy or a lack of motivation
- Socially withdrawn
- Disorganized speech or incoherent speech
- Violent behavior or erratic actions
If you or someone you know is regularly taking illicit drugs, it’s essential that you get help. Doing so can prevent any permanent damage that might take place with extended use. Contact a mental health provider today.
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