substance-induced psychotic disorder

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

Learn here about substance-induced psychotic disorder, including the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Table of Contents

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder Definition

Everyone has heard stories about people who tried a drug and were never the same again. Though you may have believed this type of drug use was just a myth, the truth is that substances can have distressing mental effects on certain individuals. These effects can last anywhere from a few days to many years, and they are signs of a hallucinosis.

Substance-induced psychotic disorder is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences delusion, hallucinations, or both within a month of using or withdrawing from illegal drugs, alcohol, and/or prescription drugs. Since substance-induced psychosis can be triggered by prescription drugs, it is

sometimes referred to as substance/medication-induced psychotic disorder.1    

Causes of Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder

The disorder can be caused by a variety of drugs, including amphetamines, hallucinogens, alcohol, marijuana, sedatives, and more. It can also be caused by prescription medications like steroids, analgesics, antidepressants, antiepileptics, and more. 

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder DSM 5

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5), defines substance-induced psychotic disorder (SIPD) as “delusions and/or hallucinations related to the physiological effects of a substance or medication, based on evidence from the history, physical examination, or laboratory findings.”2   

Substance-induced Psychotic Disorder Risk Factors

Substance-induced psychotic disorder is not caused by the substance itself; instead, the individual who uses the substance has another underlying or overt mental condition that is triggered or exacerbated by the use of the substance.

Risk factors have been identified in studies done on people with hallucinosis. Being male, being younger than thirty years old, and having an underlying mental condition all heighten the risk of developing substance-induced psychotic disorder.

How to Help Someone with Drug-Induced Psychotic Disorder

Someone with substance/medication induced psychotic disorder will likely feel confused and distressed by their condition, especially before treatment and in the early stages of diagnosis.


The first step to helping someone with the disorder is making sure they have seen a doctor and/or a psychiatrist so they can be treated. After that, educating yourself about the disorder can be very helpful in supporting someone who has it.

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of medication-induced psychotic disorder often vary based on the individual and the drug or drugs they used. Moreover, psychosis can vary in intensity depending on the amount of the substance used and how long the individual has been using it.


The symptoms typically seen in substance-induced psychotic disorder include:


Hallucinations are defined as the perception of a nonexistent object or event, and people who hallucinate will experience sensory stimuli that do not exist. In other words, people who are hallucinating will see, hear, feel, smell, or even taste things that are not there. A common example of a hallucination is hearing voices that are not there. 3


When someone has a delusion, they are convinced that a particular belief is true even if it has been disproven. An example of a delusion is someone believing they have magical abilities. Sometimes delusions are paranoid, and a paranoid delusion example is someone thinking everyone is out to get them.

Disordered Thinking

Someone experiencing disordered thinking and disorganized speech may feel like they are incapable of “thinking straight.” Thoughts become disconnected and disjointed from one another, so no complete thoughts can be formed. To other people, someone experiencing disordered thinking may seem easily distracted and confusing.


Someone experiencing disassociation may feel separate or “far away” from their thoughts, actions, and identity. They may feel disconnected from reality and may think the people around them are not real. Some people who experience disassociation also have amnesia, where they cannot remember certain periods, events, people, and personal information.4


In addition to the above symptoms, people with substance-induced psychotic disorder may also experience anxiety, depression, changes in sleep patterns, unusual or uncharacteristic behavior, a decline in hygiene and self-care, and social withdrawal.

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder Diagnosis

There is no blood test to diagnose substance-induced psychotic disorder, so doctors must work with patients to understand symptoms and the patient’s history. To be considered substance-induced psychosis, a person’s hallucinations and delusions should be greater than those that typically accompany simple substance intoxication or withdrawal.


In many cases of the disorder, symptoms resolve quickly after the causative substance is out of the patient’s system. However, substance-induced psychosis can trigger early-stage schizophrenia for someone who had the condition without realizing it. Because of this fact, doctors must obtain a thorough history from their patients to identify any past signifiers of existing mental illness.

The Difference Between Psychotic Disorder and Substance-Induced Disorder

Substance-induced psychosis often presents as organic psychosis or as another mental disorder (such as schizophrenia). It can complicate diagnosis, but there are key markers for clinicians to look out for to differentiate between psychosis and substance-induced psychosis.


Understanding the patient’s family history of mental illness can help gauge the likelihood of a primary mental illness. The age of the patient is also relevant: studies show patients with primary psychosis tend to be younger than those with substance-induced psychotic disorder.6  

How Misdiagnosis Affects the Treatment Process

Misdiagnosis, though common with this disorder, can have lasting ramifications for the patient. Ramifications of a misdiagnosed psychotic illness are potentially long-lasting and harmful to a person. Because of this issue, it is crucial that health care providers are aware of the complex relationship between substance abuse, psychotic symptoms, and independent psychotic disorders.7  

Substance-Induced Psychotic Disorder Treatment

substance-induced psychotic disorder

The good news is most cases of drug-induced psychotic disorder resolve quickly. Medications like benzodiazepines, SSRIs, and antipsychotics can be used to mitigate symptoms and stabilize mood. Clinicians may also recommend therapy to treat substance/medication-induced psychotic disorders for short and long-term patients.

A caring team of medical professionals can best help someone suffering from substance-induced psychotic disorder. Because the condition can be difficult to diagnose and complex to treat, the patient may need extensive care.

J. Flowers Health Institute utilizes a comprehensive and proactive bespoke approach for hallucinosis in which patients have access to a thorough evaluation to uncover the root of their condition. A team of caring specialists then creates a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s needs for recovery.

If you or someone you love seems to be struggling with this type of disorder, help is available. Reach out to our team of professionals today to learn how to start the journey towards recovery.