Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Abusing certain substances can lead to delusions and temporary delusional disorder. Drug-induced delusions typically occur while someone is under the influence of a substance, or for as long as substance abuse continues. Delusions may also occur during drug detox, and they may continue for up to one week after discontinuing the use of a substance. A delusion is characterized by having an absolute belief that a particular situation is occurring, even though other people cannot see it. For something to be considered a delusion, it typically has to meet the following criteria:

  • Absolute certainty in the validity of the situation
  • Unchangeable belief in the event, despite proof to the contrary
  • The content of the belief is implausible or bizarre

Drugs damage brain chemistry by disrupting the brain’s normal production of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. Dopamine disruption is a common factor in delusions, which are categorized into the following four groups:

  • Bizarre delusions – Characterized by completely impossible situations where the delusions are very strange
  • Non-bizarre delusions – Delusions where the described situations could exist in real life, but they are highly implausible in the particular situation, and they provide no evidence to their validity
  • Mood-congruent delusions – The delusions are congruent to the people’s manic or depressive moods, such as when depressed people believe that other people disapprove of them due to their depression
  • Mood-neutral delusions – The delusions are not influenced by the people’s moods, and they remain the same regardless of switching from a depressive to a manic state

Delusions can manifest from a substance-induced psychotic disorder, wherein people display delusional or generally psychotic behavior as a direct result of substance abuse. Delusional symptoms typically dissipate in a matter of days after substance abuse has stopped. However, chronic abuse of some substances can potentially induce delusional thoughts and behaviors that do not decrease when someone quits using a drug. Chronic drug abuse can cause delusional disorder, which can continue even when substance abuse stops. Delusional disorder is a psychotic disorder characterized by constant delusions unaccompanied by hallucinations or mood disorders.

It can be difficult to diagnose a delusional disorder, because people who suffer from this problem may socialize normally and conceal any noticeably bizarre or delusional behavior. Drug-induced disorders often need professional assessments to distinguish the nature of the disorder, and to determine the necessary treatment for drug abuse.

Help Finding Treatment for a Drug-Related Disorder

If you or someone you know struggles with drug abuse and delusions, then please call our toll-free helpline now. Our admissions coordinators are standing by 24 hours a day to help you find treatment programs that will work for your unique needs. Begin your road to recovery today and call us now.

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