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Meth May Cause Psychosis

Researchers demonstrate a steep increase in psychotic symptoms among meth users.


Meth use may cause hallucinations and
delusions. Photo via

By McCarton Ackerman


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Methamphetamine use drastically increases the odds of experiencing psychotic symptoms (such as hallucinations or delusions), particularly for addicts who are combining it with marijuana or alcohol use, a new study finds. In an Australian study of 278 meth users (ages 16 and older), the average participant had been using the drug (also known as "crystal meth") for 13 years prior to the study entry, but had no history of schizophrenia or mania. Rebecca McKetin, PhD, of the Australian National University in Canberra, and her colleages found that the odds of subjects experiencing psychotic symptoms were 5.3 times higher during periods of meth use; these odds were further doubled when the drug was combined with frequent marijuana or alcohol use. "Clinicians need to be vigilant for signs of methamphetamine use among patients who present with psychosis and to appreciate the role that methamphetamine plays in the generation of psychotic symptoms," write the researchers. "This is not a trivial consideration because drug use is concentrated among segments of the population that have a high risk for psychosis, namely young men, and individuals with comorbid risk factors for psychosis (eg, a history of mental disorders and adverse life events)." The increase in psychotic symptoms also did not appear to be related to concurrent changes in health and social functioning such as unemployment, unstable housing and disability. However, the study couldn't determine if the psychotic symptoms were chronic, or if meth increased longer-term vulnerability to psychosis. Unmeasured factors associated with meth use, such as sleep deprivation, may also have contributed.

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