Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Substance abuse can cause a variety of effects on a person, depending on the drug that is taken. Painkillers and other opioids cause extreme relaxation and euphoria. Tranquilizers or sedatives often produce similar results. Stimulants create the opposite effect, making users feel surges of energy, power, and confidence. Over time, drugs abuse can affect the brain so severely that users begin to suffer from delusions.

What Are Delusions?

Delusions are false beliefs or attitudes regarding a real person or event, held even in the face of contradictory evidence. They alter a person’s ability to understand and respond to the real facts in a situation. For example, a person with a delusion may believe he is dying from a deadly disease, even when countless medical tests have shown there is nothing wrong.

Delusions are not the same thing as hallucinations. Someone experiencing a hallucination sees or hears things that do not exist. Delusions twist the facts of a real situation, while hallucinations cause individuals to believe they are really seeing something that, in fact, does not exist.

Substance Use and Delusions

Some substances can cause the user to experience delusions by taking high doses of the substance, going through withdrawal from the substance, or both. For example, a person can experience delusions when ingesting a huge quantity of alcohol (called high-dose drinking). In addition, some people who are going through severe alcohol withdrawal experience extreme agitation, seizures, hallucinations and delusions. Over time, the delusions and other withdrawal symptoms will go away as the body becomes accustomed to the absence of alcohol.

Other substances can also cause delusions when ingested. For example, chronic cocaine and methamphetamine (meth) use can cause delusions, especially in heavy doses. These delusional states can last for days, weeks, or even longer. Most of the time, these delusional states are paranoid in nature, meaning that the user thinks he is being stalked, harmed, or persecuted. In some cases, however, the delusions can be grandiose, meaning that a person believes that he or she has some great but unrecognized skill, talent, insight, knowledge or power. This false belief can lead that person to act out in dangerous ways.

Hallucinogens (such as PCP, ketamine, LSD, and mushrooms) are a class of drugs that commonly causes delusions because of the way these substances interact with brain chemistry. People who take them often experience panic, paranoia, and delusions (in addition to hallucinations—hence their name). What is most troubling about hallucinogen-based delusions is their recurrence even after the drugs have left the body. These are called “flashbacks” and can cause a great deal of stress and discomfort.

Getting Help for Your Substance Abuse and Delusions

If you are experiencing drug-induced delusions, get help immediately. These delusions can be very troubling and even dangerous. You can call our toll-free helpline any time, 24 hours a day to talk with one of our admissions coordinators about your situation. Together, you can determine the best way to get the help you need. Don’t take chances with drugs and delusions. Call us today and start on the path of drug-free living.