The main characteristic of meth psychosis is the presence of prominent hallucinations and delusions (APA, 1994). The diagnosis of methamphetamine psychosis is made after performing a thorough history, physical exam, urine drug screen, and "reality testing."
Clients who are psychotic will be unable to provide a history themselves, so this information will need to be obtained from significant others. The term spun is used by the meth culture for a user who has overdosed on meth and induced a state of psychotic confusion. The user should be assessed for the following manifestations of psychosis:
Hallucinations: Hallucinations, or false perceptions, may be associated with any of the five senses.
It is difficult to distinguish the hallucinations of schizophrenia from those of drug use. According to MacKenzie and Heischober (1997), the hallucinations of schizophrenia usually are auditory, whereas those for chronic methamphetamine use are more commonly visual or tactile. Kaplan and Sadock (1994) discuss the difference between paranoid schizophrenia and an amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder. An amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder includes a predominance of visual hallucinations, generally appropriate affect, hyperactivity, hypersexuality, confusion and incoherence and little evidence of disordered thinking. The affective flattening and alogia (inability to speak) of schizophrenia are generally absent in amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder. If the healthcare worker is uncertain about the cause of the hallucination, a urine drug screen should be obtained.
Delusions: Delusions are false personal beliefs that are inconsistent with the person's intelligence or cultural background. Delusions cannot be corrected by reasoning. Some common delusions include:
Paranoia: The individual has extreme suspicion of others, their actions or perceived intentions. For example, a user sees a duck on the river and thinks the police have placed a camera in the duck to watch him.
Obsessions: According to MacKenzie and Heischober (1997), compulsion or repetitive behaviors are manifestations of chronic meth use. Users may become obsessed or perform repetitive tasks such as cleaning, assembling and disassembling objects or washing hands several times in a 15 minute period. Other repetitive tasks include formication, grinding of teeth, and pulling out hair. MacKenzie and Heischober (1997) recommend careful evaluation of patients who have histories of any compulsive behaviors, including compulsive sexual behaviors.
Medication to treat Methamphetamine Psychosis:
According to Goldfrank et al.(1998), haldol is the drug of choice. Haldol is effective in the treatment of psychosis, however it has a number of unpleasant and dangerous side effects. Common side effects include anticholinergic manifestations (dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention and constipation), nausea, gastrointestinal upset, skin rash, sedation, orthostatic hypotension, photosensitivity, decreased libido, gynecomastia, weight gain, extrapyramidal symptoms (pseudoparkinsonism, akinesia, akathisia, dystonia, oculogyric crisis), tardive dyskinesia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. It is very important that the nurse be very familiar with the action and side effects of haldol.
Additional information about haldol is available at sites like this one (rxlist).
Please click here to study some of the adverse effects of haldol, and look for the answer to the following question.
Please visit Merck's website about methamphetamine and amphetamine dependence. It is followed by information about medications used in treatment. Look for the answer to the following question:
Which medicatons are commonly used to treat the agitated user?
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