Understanding Meth Psychosis Symptoms and Recovery

Last Updated: May 1st 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Understanding Meth Psychosis Symptoms and Recovery

Crystal meth is a powerful drug that can bring on many dangerous side effects, including crystal meth psychosis. This severe mental disorder is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and a loss of contact with reality. 

Although more research is needed, experts estimate that roughly 40 percent of users addicted to meth will experience meth psychosis symptoms. Although anybody who uses crystal meth can develop psychosis, chronic users are most at risk.

The good news is that with treatment, most people with meth psychosis can recover and move on with their lives. 

Why Does Meth Cause Psychosis?

Crystal meth travels to the brain quickly, triggering a sudden flood of dopamine, a neurotransmitter known as the brain’s natural “feel good” chemical. The result is a sudden rush of intense pleasure. 

When the burst of dopamine is depleted, the rush fades, and the brain wants more meth to recapture the good feelings. In time, meth begins to lose its effectiveness, and larger, more frequent doses are needed. 

When meth short-circuits the brain, the resulting chemical upset may cause crystal meth psychosis.

What is Meth-Induced Psychosis?

Crystal meth users are at risk of many dangerous side-effects, but psychosis is one of the most frightening. People with crystal meth psychosis may lose touch with reality, and it becomes difficult to determine what’s real and what isn’t. 

Meth psychosis typically occurs a few months after starting the drug, or after several years of chronic use. However, it’s possible for meth psychosis symptoms to show up the first time meth is used.

Who Is Most Likely to Get Crystal-Meth Psychosis?

People with a family history of schizophrenia or other serious mental health problems are more susceptible to meth-induced psychosis, and meth can worsen symptoms in a person who already has schizophrenia. However, anybody who uses meth can develop meth psychosis symptoms, including those with absolutely no history of mental illness.

Although more research is needed, several studies suggest that people who were abused as children may be more susceptible to meth-induced psychosis.

How to Recognize Meth Psychosis Symptoms

People displaying crystal meth psychosis symptoms may have hallucinations —hearing, feeling, or seeing things that aren’t there. They may find it difficult and confusing to sort out what is real and what isn’t. 

For instance, it’s common for people with meth psychosis to experience a sensation of bugs crawling under their skin (commonly known as meth bugs, meth mites, or crank bugs. They may develop scabs or sores from scratching at the imaginary bugs.

A psychotic person may have delusions or strong, implausible beliefs that aren’t based on reality. They may exhibit severe paranoia, and they may be convinced that someone is out to get them. They may think they’re being tricked, laughed at, spied on, or followed. 

Other common symptoms of crystal meth psychosis may include:

  • Increased energy
  • Uncontrollable rage, anger, or hostility
  • Aggressive or hostile behavior 
  • Erratic or unpredictable behavior
  • Agitation or jumpiness
  • Incoherent or nonsensical speech
  • Poor impulse control
  • An overblown sense of self-importance
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Early Symptoms of Meth Psychosis

Crystal meth psychosis doesn’t usually happen all at once, and symptoms tend to come on gradually. If you’re a meth user and you recognize the early signs of meth psychosis, timely treatment can help before symptoms are out of control. If someone you love is exhibiting meth psychosis symptoms, encourage them to seek treatment as soon as possible. 

  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly.
  • Unusual or sudden decline in personal hygiene
  • Moodiness
  • Inappropriate or absent emotions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

How Long Does Meth Psychosis Last?

It’s impossible to predict how long crystal meth psychosis will last. Symptoms may occur during meth use, and they may resolve as soon the drug wears off. They are also a common symptom of withdrawal from crystal meth. 

Meth psychosis may continue for a few hours or days, or for weeks or months. Psychosis may be limited to a single episode with no recurrence, or symptoms may reoccur, even after years of abstinence, often as a response to severe stress.  

Treatment for Meth-Induced Psychosis

Inpatient or residential treatment is recommended for people with crystal meth psychosis. A suitable treatment center will have a team of professionals experienced with the assessment and treatment of psychosis. 

Medically-supervised detox with around-the-clock monitoring is usually the first step. Withdrawal symptoms can be difficult, but they will gradually subside as the body readjusts.

While there are no specific medications for meth addiction, antipsychotic meds such as Haldol (haloperidol), Seroquel (quetiapine), and Zyprexa (olanzapine) are often prescribed to treat the symptoms of meth psychosis. Other medications may be prescribed to help with depression or anxiety.

Behavioral therapy, typically consisting of one-on-one counseling and group treatment, is highly effective for meth addiction and psychosis. Both promote the development of coping skills, problem-solving, and management of harmful and destructive thoughts. 

Most treatment centers also offer treatment and education that helps families support their loved one. A well-developed aftercare plan will help prevent relapse and promote long-term meth psychosis recovery. Meth psychosis treatment usually includes assistance or referrals for people who need help with medical problems, housing, legal issues, or employment. 

If Someone You Know Experiences Meth Psychosis

Remember that the primary focus is convincing your loved one to seek treatment. Be encouraging, reassuring, and hopeful, and never critical or judgmental. Most importantly, be calm. If tempers rise, try again after you both have time to cool off. 

Offer to help your friend find a treatment center, or accompany him to a mental health center or emergency room. Don’t give up. Getting through may take several attempts.

Convincing a psychotic person to enter treatment is never easy. Sometimes, it’s wisest to ask for professional help from a counselor or addiction professional. People under the influence of meth are frequently unpredictable and may be angry, aggressive, or violent. Call 911 immediately if your friend is suicidal, or if you’re concerned about your safety. 

Get Help For Crystal Meth Addiction

Treatment offers the best hope of recovery from crystal meth psychosis and addiction, but please don’t wait. Our team of experts is ready to answer questions and discuss options for treatment. Give us a call at 855-425-4846 or contact us here for more information.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.