Meth Psychosis: Symptoms, Causes, & Getting Help
Meth psychosis is one of the most serious adverse health effects associated with methamphetamine misuse. If you use methamphetamine or know someone who does, you should be aware of this potential risk, as the symptoms of a methamphetamine psychosis can last for months or even years after a person has quit using the drug.1
This article will explain what meth psychosis means and how you can get help for yourself, or someone you care about, who may be struggling with meth addiction.
What Is Meth Psychosis?
Meth psychosis refers to several psychotic symptoms that can potentially arise as a result of methamphetamine use, such as delusions or hallucinations.1 Methamphetamine-associated psychosis is often very difficult to distinguish from schizophrenia.2
Although many factors can impact the development of psychosis after meth use, it is often a result of chronic, long-term abuse.1,3,4 However, occasional meth users may also develop symptoms of psychosis, especially after high-dose use.1,2 4,5
Literature reviews have indicated a wide range of prevalence rates for meth psychosis in people with problematic methamphetamine use, with symptoms reported in as many as 76% of methamphetamine-dependent subjects in one study. One meta-analysis revealed a prevalence rate of nearly 37% among recreational users and an even higher rate (43%) among those with methamphetamine use disorders.5 Previous studies have reported similar ranges, showing prevalence rates of meth psychosis between 10 and 60% among those who use meth illicitly.3
What Are the Symptoms of Meth Psychosis?
Meth psychosis can be severely debilitating and its presence may be a telltale example of advanced or otherwise problematic meth use. The symptoms of methamphetamine psychosis may closely resemble those of acute paranoid schizophrenia.2,4 Meth psychosis symptoms may include:1,2,4-7
- Disorganized thoughts and speech.
- Persecutory delusions.
- Delusions of reference (meaning the person thinks things that world events are directly related to them).
- Visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations.
- Thought broadcasting (believing others can hear or know one’s thoughts).
- Bizarre or violent behavior.
Tactile hallucinations (feeling something that isn’t there) are one of the most common forms of hallucinations in meth users. Meth users often say they feel like bugs are crawling under their skin.8
How Long Does Meth Psychosis Last?
People can develop acute or chronic (persistent) meth psychosis. Acute psychosis may last for hours or days and typically subsides once the drug is fully cleared from the body.2,4
In cases of chronic meth psychosis, symptoms may persist for months or even years after a person ends their meth use.1,2
Because of the similarity of meth psychosis with schizophrenia, it is not always easy to differentiate between the two, and in some cases, both may be present.2,8
What Causes Meth Psychosis?
Research suggests that recreational meth use, especially in large doses or at an early age, can increase a person’s risk of developing psychotic symptoms by as much as 3 times.3
Psychotic symptoms may arise as a result of an underlying mental health disorder like schizophrenia; however, they may also arise solely from meth use.2
Some people may be at increased risk of psychotic symptoms. Researchers have identified “candidate genes” that seem to be associated with a vulnerability to meth psychosis, with evidence suggesting a potential genetic overlap between schizophrenia and meth psychosis.7
Additional risk factors can include:4,6,7
- Binge use of meth.
- Long-term and/or high-dose use.
- Concurrent use of other substances in addition to meth (polysubstance use).
- Co-occurring psychiatric disorders (especially mood disorders and antisocial personality disorder).*
- History of sexual abuse.
- Family history of mental illness.
* Disorders like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder are linked to an increased risk of meth psychosis. In people who have these disorders, meth use may precipitate or worsen psychotic symptoms.6
How to Help Someone Who Is Suffering from Psychotic Symptoms
People who are experiencing meth psychosis might require stabilization in a hospital or another inpatient environment.2 People with psychotic symptoms may act out violently toward themselves or others.2 If you think someone you know is experiencing meth psychosis, seek immediate emergency care.
In addition to psychotic disorders, other mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may be present.2 People who abuse meth and have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder can benefit from co-occurring disorder treatment. This type of care involves treating the substance abuse problem and the mental health disorder simultaneously.2 Treating the patient’s mental health disorder(s) while also treating their addiction is important because, left inadequately managed, each problem could complicate the course of the other.2,9
AdCare is committed to helping you throughout the recovery process and provides customized, individualized treatment plans. Our 3-step process for starting rehab involves:
- Calling our free AdCare helpline at to discuss your unique needs and situation.
- Verifying your insurance. Learn more about how to use insurance to pay for rehab.
- Creating a customized treatment plan for your needs, which we can do when you call our helpline.
If you’re struggling or you love someone who is, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our admissions navigators are here for you 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about the rehab process and help you get started on the path to recovery.