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Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Substance abuse may result in delusions

A delusion is a strongly held belief that survives in spite of evidence that opposes it. Delusions are not beliefs that people maintain due to a lack of contradictory evidence, nor are they moral or religious convictions. They are usually associated with some kind of mental disorder, and they are placed into one of the following categories:

  • Bizarre (strange and impossible, like believing that one has been abducted by aliens)
  • Non-bizarre (still false, but plausible, like conspiracy obsessions)
  • Mood-congruent delusion (delusions connected to either depression or mania)
  • Mood-neutral (still false, but unconnected to any particular mood)

While some delusions are noticeably bizarre, others can be very subtle. Some delusional people maintain lofty opinions of themselves, while other delusional people believe that they are aliens from outer space. Delusions are closely associated with psychosis, which can be caused by hereditary factors, trauma or substance abuse.

How Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Brain

Intoxicating drugs affect mental processes due to how they work. These drugs bind to chemical receptors involved in pain, emotional functions such as impulse control, management of feelings and the formation and recollection of memories. In high quantities alcohol, narcotics and hallucinogens impact the brain’s ability to discern between fantasy and reality. While high on drugs or alcohol, people might see things that are not really there, or they may feel sensations that are not based in reality. While these experiences can be troubling and even dangerous, they do not technically qualify as delusions. However, over time certain substances can cause the brain to mistake fantasy for reality even when someone is not high. The most common form of drug-induced psychosis involves long-term stimulant abuse, especially of cocaine and amphetamine.

Psychosis can also be a co-occurring mental condition that causes drug abuse and addiction. When drug abuse co-occurs with a mental health problem, it can be difficult to discern whether the delusions come from the drugs or from an underlying disorder.

Treating Drug-Induced Psychosis

To relieve stimulant-induced psychosis, people need a comprehensive diagnosis of all co-occurring disorders, as well as integrated treatment that addresses all issues simultaneously. This kind of treatment often occurs in Dual Diagnosis therapy, and the most successful programs customize plans with the following techniques:

  • Various types of individual counseling
  • Support group meetings
  • Education about addiction and mental health issues
  • Closely supervised medical treatment

Psychosis can be managed through medication. Many patients see their symptoms reduce the longer they stay off of drugs, but some of them require medication for the rest of their lives. The most critical factor for treating co-occurring psychosis and addiction is integrating all aspects of the patient’s physical and mental health into a unified treatment plan.

Treating Substance Abuse and Mental Health

If you would like more information about substance-based delusions, addiction recovery or psychosis, then please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are ready 24 hours a day to talk with you about your concerns, and they can also help you find the best treatment for your unique needs. Seek help now to begin recovery.