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Prescription drugs are meant to help people deal with the symptoms of an illness or disease. Adderall, for example, is designed to help people with attention deficit disorder (ADD).
People with ADD struggle to focus, and that can have a strong impact on their ability to succeed in school or on the job. Adderall is a stimulant medication, and in people with ADD, it can bring about the focus that’s been missing.
For people without ADD, Adderall can spark a sense of wellness, energy, and happiness. It can also cause side effects, including psychosis and paranoia.
In a study in the journal BMC Psychiatry, researchers report that psychosis sparked by amphetamines causes symptoms such as:
These are very similar to the symptoms someone might experience due to schizophrenia psychosis, the researchers report. The only difference is that psychosis that is caused by drugs tends to pass by a little quicker than the psychosis caused by schizophrenia.
In a second study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers outline the case of a young person who experienced Adderall psychosis. This boy described hearing voices, and he also described suicidal thoughts. These are inner symptoms, but someone who experiences them might discuss them with someone they trust.
About 18% of people with amphetamine psychosis have psychotic symptoms that are mild, and they do not need hospitalization to recover, say researchers writing in Cochrane. Only a small minority needs care in emergency departments, researchers say.
Medications that are used to help people recover from schizophrenia psychosis are also effective in helping people recover from amphetamine psychosis, researchers say. Those medications must come with a prescription, however, which means families that see psychosis should get the help of a medical professional.
Therapies that address psychosis may not address the addiction. People who abuse amphetamines may have intense cravings for the drugs when they try to stop the abuse, and they may be at high risk of relapsing to use of drugs without help.
Enrolling in a medical detox program is a wise first step, so the psychosis can be treated by medical professionals. Then, treatment teams can move on to the rehab phase of healing, and help the person learn to develop thought patterns, life habits, and self-care techniques that support a life of sobriety.
Anyone who abuses a stimulant like Adderall is at risk for a psychotic episode. The drug disrupts chemical pathways in the brain, leading to a misinterpretation of sensory information. That disconnect between the senses and the brain causes psychosis. It can happen to anyone who abuses this drug.
Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, however, that people who have a family history of psychotic symptoms are at higher risk of Adderall psychosis than people who do not have that family history. As a result, families that do have this history and know abuse is happening should be extra vigilant and step in with the right care if symptoms arise.
Seeing someone experiencing psychosis isn’t easy, and it isn’t uncommon to feel frightened. Focusing on the future can help. By providing the right help and a sense of hope, families can break the addiction cycle and get the person treatment that works.
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