08 Dec Psychosis Runs High in Cocaine Addicts, Study Finds
Cocaine-induced psychosis is a condition that can appear in habitual users of the illegal stimulant drug cocaine. Like forms of psychosis not linked to substance use, it produces serious or debilitating symptoms characterized primarily by sensory hallucinations and delusional thinking. In a study published in September 2013 in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, a team of Spanish researchers examined the impact of cocaine-induced psychosis on the actions and mental health of people affected by cocaine dependence. The members of this team found that the condition can increase the likelihood of several cocaine-related health risks.
Psychosis is one of the primary symptoms of schizophrenia and several other related conditions that center on chemical and functional problems inside the brain. However, people unaffected by schizophrenia or schizophrenia-related illness can also develop temporary or persistent psychotic states of mind. Regardless of the underlying causes involved, the classic indications of psychosis include sound-, sight- or touch-oriented sensory hallucinations and delusional thought patterns that stray widely from logical processes and continue to exert their influence even when countered with clear evidence of their false nature. Lesser-known but common signs of a psychotic state include an inability to properly coordinate one’s speech or thoughts, and a tendency to jump randomly between thoughts that have no relevance or connection to each other.
Roughly half of all people who seek treatment for cocaine abuse have notable symptoms of cocaine-induced psychosis, according to a review on substance-related psychosis published in 2006 in the journal Current Opinions in Psychiatry. The authors of this review note that similar rates of psychosis likely appear among cocaine abusers who don’t seek treatment for their drug use. In most respects, cocaine-induced psychosis is outwardly indistinguishable from schizophrenia-related psychosis. However, cocaine abusers and addicts tend to develop hallucinations and delusions focused on their drug intake, and doctors can use this telltale sign to distinguish between the two conditions. As of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association includes cocaine-induced psychosis in a larger category of mental health problems called “other stimulant-induced disorders.”
As a rule, men develop cocaine-related psychosis substantially more often than women. Other known risk factors for the condition include a preexisting genetic or environmental disposition toward psychosis, a prolonged history of regular cocaine use, a prolonged history of high cocaine intake, intravenous (IV) use of cocaine and a relative lack of body fat. Once a cocaine user develops psychosis symptoms, those symptoms typically get worse if cocaine intake continues. However, most affected individuals do not develop psychotic mental states that persist after cocaine use ends.
In the study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, researchers from three Spanish institutions assessed the impact of cocaine-induced psychosis on people physically dependent on cocaine. In order to make this assessment, the researchers examined 287 individuals seeking outpatient treatment for their drug use. Roughly 60 percent of them had measurable symptoms of psychosis. The researchers looked at a number of risk factors that might potentially be associated with the presence of psychotic mental states, including a higher level of impulsive behavior and higher chances of being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
After completing their analysis, the authors of the study found that cocaine-dependent individuals affected by cocaine-induced psychosis have an unusually high tendency to act impulsively with little forethought or consideration for the consequences of their actions. Generally speaking, the presence of high impulsivity increases a person’s chances of both initiating and continuing dangerous patterns of drug or alcohol use. In this particular case, the authors concluded that increased impulsivity in psychotic, cocaine-dependent people is associated with an increased lifetime need for treatment for cocaine-related issues and an increased likelihood of experiencing a cocaine overdose. In addition, compared to their drug-using peers unaffected by psychosis, cocaine-dependent people affected by psychotic symptoms have substantially higher rates for ADHD.
The authors of the study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases note that the effects of cocaine-induced psychosis occur with fairly predictable regularity in large numbers of people dependent on cocaine. As a result, they believe that doctors can use the presence of high levels of impulsivity and ADHD as potential indicators that a cocaine-dependent person may also be affected by cocaine-induced psychosis. In turn, prompt detection of these problems may help doctors limit the impact of psychosis in cocaine users.
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