People who use methamphetamine regularly may experience hallucinations. Otherwise known as meth or crystal meth, this illegal, mind-altering drug can cause what is called “meth psychosis,” which is a mental health disorder that produces psychosis (including hallucinations) during the meth “high” and sometimes afterward, too.
A meth-induced psychosis can be harrowing. One meth user described her worst meth psychosis experience as such: “I believed that I had written the world into existence, and had to wage an epic war against evil shape-shifting wizards who morphed out of strangers everywhere I went.”
She also added that on other occasions of her drug-induced psychosis, “I thought I was an alien or had the ability to translate secret messages from dog barks, or had foreknowledge of an imminent nuclear attack on Seattle, where I lived. Each time was short—once I got some sleep, the psychosis waned. But those handful of hours were terrifying.”
Read on to learn more about meth psychosis and how to solve them.
Why Meth is Abused
Meth is a highly addictive, stimulant drug. While opioid addiction has dominated national headlines, there have been substantiated reports that a surge in meth use has commenced.
While it comes as a powder, it is formed into a pill or a crystal. The powder form is typically eaten or snorted, but the crystalized version, known as crystal meth, is typically smoked in a glass pipe. Meth can also be mixed into a liquid and injected into the body intravenously.
Meth produces a rush of euphoria in users, but it can quickly produce a number of medical problems which include:
- Spikes in body temperature to the point you pass out
- Severe itching and scratching
- Severe tooth and gum decay, which is known as “meth mouth”
- Thinking and emotional problems
The psychosis that comes from meth use is yet another devastating outcome.
The Signs of Meth Use
When someone uses meth, they will exhibit behavioral, psychological, and physical signs and symptoms.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has succumbed to meth use, then you should pay attention to the following cues, according to WebMD:
- A lack of care and attention to personal appearance or grooming
- Obsessively picking at the skin or hair
- Displaying a loss of appetite and weight loss
- Having dilated or widened pupils and rapid eye movement
- Having strange sleeping patterns where a user will stay up for days or even weeks at a time
- Displaying jerky or erratic movements; having twitching; facial tics; animated or exaggerated mannerisms; and excessively talking
- Borrowing money often, selling possessions, or stealing
- Having angry outbursts or mood swings
- Displaying psychotic behavior, like paranoia and hallucinations
What is Meth Psychosis?
Meth is a stimulant. When ingested, it causes the brain to greatly boost levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical that governs euphoric or good feelings. This unnatural boost in dopamine throws the brain off balance. It’s not used to having such a high amount of dopamine and can get a bit confused.
This confusion or lack of chemical balance can cause mood swings, obsessive thoughts, aggression, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and other responses. People who use meth regularly are more at risk of experiencing these types of “psychotic” symptoms, or meth psychosis, including hallucinations.
In fact, long-term use of meth can cause severe neuropathological defects and disturbances in various cognitive areas of the brain, including complex information processing speed, memory, and executive functions.
Anyone is susceptible to meth hallucinations, whether you’re a first-time user, or you’ve been using for a while. While it may take one person a few weeks of meth abuse to begin experiencing hallucinations, it might take another person months or years. The dosage may be a factor, as well as others like predisposition, age, whether other drugs were being used or abused, and more.
A 2014 study reported that between 26 and 46 percent of people with meth addiction experience some degree of meth psychosis sooner or later. Those who have a history of psychosis, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder are at an increased risk of developing meth psychosis.
What is a Hallucination?
A hallucination occurs when you see or hear things that aren’t real. The following are examples of various types of hallucinations:
Visual Hallucinations – These occur when you see things that aren’t there. You think they are there, as your eyes see them, but the fact is they’re just not there. Visual hallucinations can consist of seeing various objects, people, animals, and more.
Auditory Hallucinations – This type of hallucination occurs when you hear things that aren’t really there. Hearing voices in your head that aren’t real is one example.
Tactile Hallucinations – These occur when you actually feel things that aren’t really there. A prime example of a meth-induced hallucination is experiencing the tactile sensation of bugs crawling on or under your skin. Under the influence of meth, you might scratch and scratch at your skin because of this hallucination, and develop “meth sores.”
Olfactory Hallucinations – These occur when you smell things that aren’t in the air.
Gustatory Hallucinations – Tasting things that aren’t in your mouth.
People who experience meth psychosis are more apt to experience visual hallucinations over other types.
How Does Meth Make You Hallucinate?
Methamphetamines are a potent type of central nervous system stimulant, which means it increases the activity in the brain and nervous system. Stimulants can cause drug-induced psychosis, which is sometimes called stimulant psychosis. Stimulant psychosis can mimic the symptoms of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.
Psychosis can occur in very high and very low moods. People with severe depression may experience delusional thinking, while people with mania experience high moods that can cause hallucinations and delusions.
Stimulants like meth increase the amount of dopamine in your brain’s chemical messaging system. Dopamine is an important brain chemical that is responsible for reward and motivation. It causes feelings of pleasure, elevated mood, and excitement when released. Meth causes an increase in the release of dopamine and blocks it from being removed from your system, causing an intense buildup.
High dopamine levels are also seen in people who experience psychosis. Excessive dopamine binding to the part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens contributes to psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. Meth creates a similar dopamine buildup, which can cause hallucinations.
How to Tell if You Have Meth Hallucinations
If you are having a hallucination from meth, you may not be able to recognize the signs.
If you suspect you are, and others are telling you that what you’re not in touch with reality, perhaps you can believe them. This would indicate that you need to stop using meth immediately, and if you can’t stop on your own, you must reach out for help.
If you’re wondering if a loved one is having hallucinations from meth, you may be correct. Chances are, if they’re abusing meth for some time, they could very well be having some hallucinations. It’s best if they are evaluated by an addiction specialist.
How Long do Meth Hallucinations Last?
Meth psychosis, including hallucinations, may last differently in time frames depending on various factors. There’s really no way to tell how long meth hallucinations will last. Some report that it lasts a few hours, while others state that it may last days or weeks.
How to Treat Meth Hallucinations
If you or a loved one is experiencing hallucinations from meth, know that it might be challenging to get them to realize that they are not in contact with reality. They may indeed believe that their hallucinations are real no matter what you say. Even if they are only experiencing hallucinations occasionally and can still come back to reality some, the longer they abuse meth, the more likely they are to experience worsening hallucinations.
You don’t have to try to force them to believe their hallucinations are false. This may agitate them or make them aggressive. You can let them know that you understand how they are feeling, stay calm, and when they are in a sober state, discuss with them the possibility of them stopping meth.
“The best thing you can do if you or your loved one is abusing meth and having hallucinations is to get them to a substance abuse professional for an assessment. ”
They will most likely need to be treated and assessed to see if they have any mental health conditions as well. Addiction specialists can treat both meth addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder. This form of specialized treatment is known as a dual-diagnosis treatment.
While every addiction journey is different and reputable rehab centers administer addiction treatment that considers the individual, there are core therapeutic practices that are effective in addressing substance use disorders and mental health issues.
Clients in dual diagnosis treatment will likely experience the following therapy approaches:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Family therapy
What Are Meth Delusions?
Hallucinations represent one of the symptoms associated with psychosis, but delusions often occur alongside them. Delusions and hallucinations are often related, but they aren’t the same thing. Hallucinations are when you perceive something that isn’t there that other people can’t perceive. You may see, hear, or even smell or touch something that’s not there. However, delusions are thoughts and beliefs that aren’t consistent with reality.
There are multiple types of delusions, but a common one that’s often seen in meth is paranoid delusion. Paranoid delusions are a false belief that someone is out to get you, watching you, or that you’re in some kind of danger. Meth increases your energy, heart rate, and alertness, which can put you into a state of hypervigilance.
Meth may also cause you to experience delusions of grandeur, which cause you to have a false sense of importance or power. You may believe you are uniquely gifted, incapable of failing, or invincible. This can be dangerous if you attempt something that would put you in danger. It’s possible to experience a combination of delusions. For instance, you may be paranoid about a threat that only you have the ability to stop.
Delusions and hallucinations can play into one another. You may have false beliefs, and you may see or hear things that fuel or confirm those beliefs.
The Difference Between Meth Psychosis and Psychotic Disorders
While you’re experiencing the symptoms of meth-induced psychosis, it will be very similar to disorders that cause psychosis. However, the major difference is that the psychotic symptoms that meth causes usually stop when you stop using the drug. Meth can manipulate the chemical messaging system in your brain to the point that it creates temporary psychosis. In most cases, treating a meth use disorder will also result in reduced or stopped psychotic symptoms.
However, in some cases, meth can trigger a pre-existing or latent mental health disorder like schizophrenia. People with mental health disorders that cause psychosis need to take extra care when taking psychoactive drugs, especially stimulants that mimic some of the conditions in the brain that cause psychotic symptoms.
If You Are Hallucinating From Meth
If you use meth and hallucinate sometimes, your best route is to stop using meth immediately. If you cannot stop using meth on your own, seek professional help from an addiction specialist or drug treatment center. Continuing to use meth puts you in danger of more hallucinations or a full-on psychotic break – or worse, you put yourself at risk of a fatal overdose.
Detox will be your first step toward freedom from meth addiction. This is best done under the supervision of substance abuse professionals.
Professional treatment may require you to take antipsychotic medication if you are experiencing meth psychosis. You may receive treatment that is utilized to help those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, including the combination of medication and therapy. You may also undergo individual and group counseling, which can help you learn valuable recovery tools that you can use.