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What is Stimulant Psychosis?

Stimulant psychosis is when you experience paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations caused by stimulant use. It is most commonly caused by an overdose of cocaine, methylphenidate, substituted amphetamines such as methamphetamine, and, in rare cases, caffeine. It occurs in a small percentage of people taking stimulants at lower doses and occasionally when withdrawing from stimulants. The longer you take stimulants, the more likely you are to experience an episode of stimulant psychosis.

Episodes of stimulant psychosis are often intense and disturbing. You might fear someone is trying to get into your house or your room or you might hallucinate someone or something attacking you. Symptoms of stimulant psychosis are similar to schizophrenia. There is evidence that the two conditions may be related. One study found that people who experience stimulant psychosis are far more likely than average to have relatives with schizophrenia. In someone with a predisposition to schizophrenia, even a relatively small dose of stimulants can induce symptoms. The main differences in the two conditions is that stimulant psychosis is far more likely to involve visual hallucinations, but less likely to involve incoherent or irrational speech.

More than half of cocaine users report symptoms of stimulant psychosis. These typically include paranoid delusions, sometimes supported by hallucinations. For example, if you feel like you’re being watched, you may see people hiding in the bushes outside your window. People often report feeling bugs crawling on them too.

Symptoms of stimulant psychosis from prolonged use of methylphenidate are even worse. They include hallucinations, severe anxiety and irritability, paranoid delusions, confusions, aggression, and thoughts of self-harm.

The good news is that stimulant psychosis is rarely permanent. One study found that 64 percent of people recovered within 10 days and 82 percent recovered within a month. Symptoms may persist indefinitely for five to 15 percent of people. After you’ve recovered from an episode, a relatively small dose can trigger a relapse.

Stimulant psychosis is treated with supportive care. There is no antidote like there is for opioid overdose, although antipsychotic drugs may help early in treatment. If someone is in the grip of an episode, you have to do your best to keep him hydrated and monitor his vital signs until the drug wears off.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.