February 3, 2023

What Drugs Cause Psychosis?

Most people are familiar with the term "psychosis" but many don't realize what drugs can cause psychotic symptoms. We discuss in detail.

what drugs cause psychosis

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on June 5, 2023

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Understanding Psychosis

Psychosis is a mental health condition in which reality seems distorted, and the individual may have difficulty differentiating between what’s real and not. People who experience psychosis often struggle with hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there), delusions (believing false ideas about the world) or disorganized thoughts and behavior.

Overall Signs of Psychosis

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized or abnormal motor behavior
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Poor insight or judgment
  • Social withdrawal
  • Emotional blunting or flat affect
  • Difficulty with concentration and attention

Who is at risk of drug-induced psychosis?

Drug-induced psychosis can affect anyone, but certain factors increase the risk. People with existing mental health issues like depression or anxiety are more likely to experience drug-induced psychosis. 

Young people and those who use drugs in large amounts are also at a greater risk of developing drug-induced psychosis.

What Drugs Cause Psychosis?

Alcohol Psychosis

Alcohol is one of the most common drugs that can cause psychosis. People who drink heavily over a long period can experience alcohol-induced psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

Additionally, people who are withdrawing from heavy drinking may experience sdelirium tremens (DTs), which mirrors some of the same effects of psychosis. 

Alcohol use also has the ability to initiate symptoms of schizophrenia in genetically vulnerable adults.1

Methamphetamine Psychosis

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug that causes a range of serious health and psychological problems, particularly among long-term users.

One of the most common and detrimental of these effects is methamphetamine-induced psychosis.

Hallucinations, depersonalization, paranoia, confusion, and disorganized behavior characterize this disorder.

It is thought to be caused by the way in which methamphetamine disrupts the delicate chemical balance in the brain leading to changes in the chemicals that govern perception and emotion, resulting in a distorted view of reality.

While no treatments have been found to reverse the neurological damage from methamphetamine use yet, ongoing research2 offers hope for those in recovery from meth addiction

Amphetamine Psychosis

Amphetamines, a popular class of stimulants, have been linked to the onset of psychosis3 in some individuals.

The exact mechanism is not yet understood, but researchers believe that prolonged overstimulation of the brain caused by amphetamine abuse can lead to psychotic conditions.

Amphetamines increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in undesired physiological and psychological effects if left unchecked.

Abuse of these substances has been correlated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other serious mental health issues.

It is, therefore essential that those contemplating using amphetamines pay close attention to any changes they experience in their behavior or mental state while they are under the influence and be aware of the risks associated with its use.

Cocaine Psychosis

Cocaine psychosis is a mental state characterized by delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations attributed to cocaine usage.

This severe mental health condition can surface in those who are addicted to cocaine or take high doses of the drug and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days or even longer.

Scientific research has linked cocaine psychosis with changes in brain chemistry due to cocaine binding to dopamine transporters, which causes disruptions throughout the body’s neurological pathways and contributes to cocaine addiction.

It is important for individuals afflicted with cocaine psychosis to seek medical attention as soon as possible, as the symptoms created by cocaine are known to cause paranoid behaviors and extreme mood swings that can be highly dangerous if left untreated.

It’s important to note that while Cocaine psychosis can be common, studies have shown4 that it does not happen universally.

Ecstasy Psychosis

Ecstasy, or MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), is a powerful stimulant drug known for its euphoric effects when taken recreationally. Unfortunately, however, ecstasy can also cause psychosis in some users.

Those already predisposed to mental health disorders are especially at risk as ecstasy can bring on or worsen conditions such as anxiety and paranoia.

In a psychosis caused by ecstasy use, users will experience delirium or confusion, may become violent, and could find it impossible to differentiate between reality and fantasy.

The best way to reduce the risk of ecstasy-induced psychosis is to avoid using the drug altogether. For those already suffering from ecstasy-related psychosis due to past drug abuse, professional treatment is recommended to find a resolution.

Ketamine Psychosis

ketamine psychosis is a mental disorder caused by long-term ketamine abuse. Research has suggested that ketamine induces an enduring psychotic state through its actions on the NMDA glutamate receptor, leading to increased levels of dopamine in the brain.

In some cases, people may experience hallucinations, paranoia, disordered thinking, and changes in emotional perceptions. Other physical symptoms can also develop, such as anxiety and depression.

Long-term ketamine use can even cause permanent psychosis, but the effects vary from person to person. No matter what form ketamine psychosis takes, it’s important to recognize early warning signs and seek professional help.

LSD Psychosis

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a potent psychoactive substance used for recreational and therapeutic purposes.

It has well-documented hallucinogenic effects; however, the fact that it can cause actual psychosis is often less understood.

Psychosis occurs when an individual loses touch with reality and experiences hallucinations, delusions, and related symptoms.

However, LSD-induced psychosis generally does not last long, and most individuals tend to experience clear mental states as soon as they come down off the drug.

It is also important to note that not everyone who takes LSD will experience psychosis; it largely depends on the individual’s constitution and environment at the time of consumption.

K-2 Spice Psychosis

K-2 Spice is a psychoactive designer drug known as synthetic marijuana, which has been linked to the cause of psychosis in users.

It is an important issue because k-2 is widely available and often presented as an alternative to marijuana. Unfortunately, k-2 contains powerful chemicals that are far more potent than the THC found in natural cannabis, and can lead to more severe side effects such as k-2 spice psychosis.

Research has revealed that k-2 can cause hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking similar to symptoms of schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses.

Furthermore, k-2 spice psychosis can result in long-lasting mental health issues if left untreated. Therefore people must understand the implications of using k-2 spice to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Bath Salts Psychosis

Bath salt psychosis is a terrifying and dangerous psychological disorder that can be caused by using bath salts, which are man-made stimulants. This drug is known to cause the onset of psychosis.5

Bath salts are often mislabeled and abused as recreational drugs, leading to shocking consequences.

The intense effects of bath salts on the central nervous system can heighten emotions and cause psychosis, among other long-term health issues such as anxiety, paranoia, vivid dreams, sleep disturbances, and severe depression.

In addition to the serious physical effects, bath salt psychosis can lead to impaired judgment that prevents users from making sound choices or evaluating dangerous situations accurately.

As bath salts continue to gain popularity around the world, it’s essential for people to understand their potential risks in order to avoid inflicting the agonizing effects of bath salt psychosis upon themselves or their loved ones.

Psilocybin Psychosis

While psilocybin is considered a relatively safe drug, there have been some reports of psilocybin-induced psychosis.

For people predisposed to mental illness or living in unstable environments, psilocybin can induce temporary psychosis.

Generally, these experiences include paranoia, fear, anxiety, disorganized thought patterns, and cognitive distortions.

Experts believe that psilocybin interacts with the serotonin system in the brain, leading to an altered mental state that can cause psychotic episodes.

While psilocybin psychosis is not common and can be experienced by those without prior history of mental illnesses, users should always educate themselves on the risks associated with psilocybin consumption before use.

Drug-Induced Schizophrenia

One of the most serious forms of drug-induced psychosis is drug-induced schizophrenia. This occurs when someone develops symptoms of schizophrenia as a result of using drugs.

While schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can develop without the use of drugs, drug-induced schizophrenia can give people similar symptoms and make it harder to treat their original condition.

However, drug-induced schizophrenia usually occurs in individuals who already have a predisposition to developing schizophrenia6 through genetics in the first place.

How to Handle Someone in Experiencing Drug-induced Psychosis

When someone is experiencing a psychotic episode, it can be difficult to know how to respond.

It’s important to remain calm and provide a safe environment for the person in crisis. Speak calmly and slowly, offer assurance, and avoid arguments or confrontations.

Don’t try to distract them from their psychosis or ignore their behavior. It’s important to remember that the person may not fully control their thoughts or actions and should be treated with respect and compassion.

If they feel unsafe or are a clear danger to themselves or others, help them get to a safe place such as a hospital or a doctor’s office.

If they exhibit behaviors that are dangerous to themselves or others call emergency services for assistance. Provide them with emotional support and seek help from a mental health professional if needed.

By understanding the risks of various drugs and being aware of how to handle someone in a psychotic episode, we can take steps to reduce the likelihood that addiction or psychosis will occur.

Educating ourselves and others is key to making sure our loved ones stay safe. With the right knowledge and support, we can reduce the risks associated with drug use and ensure that everyone is taken care of.

Finding Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and are experiencing symptoms of psychosis, it’s important to seek help from a drug and alcohol treatment center.

When psychosis is involved, it’s always best to seek immediate treatment. Cornerstone Healing Center has drug and alcohol rehab facilities in Scottsdale, AZ, where we help people start the process of long-term recovery.

Our clinical team can help individuals address the underlying causes of addiction, learn healthy coping skills and gain insight into the roots of their substance abuse issues.

Cornerstone’s addiction treatment programs can provide an environment for people to recover fully and lead happy and healthy lives.

For more information about our programs, contact us at (800) 643-2108 or verify your insurance benefits.


[1] Alcoholism followed by schizophrenia

[2] Methamphetamine-Associated Psychosis

[3] Methamphetamine psychosis: insights from the past
[4] Risk factors for experiencing psychosis during cocaine use: a preliminary report

[5] “Bath Salt” Ingestion Leading to Severe Intoxication Delirium: Two Cases and a Brief Review of the Emergence of Mephedrone Use

[6] Prediction of Onset of Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder and Its Progression to Schizophrenia in a Swedish National Sample

Published: 2/3/2023

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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