Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Can Substance Abuse Cause Delusions?

Substance abuse can cause delusions

Those who engage in drug or alcohol abuse may experience a wide variety of health effects and consequences. For example, long-term alcohol abuse may lead to liver damage. Injecting drugs can lead to contraction of dangerous infections, including hepatitis B or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). While most people recognize these dangerous effects, they often disregard the possibility and dangers of substance-induced delusions.

What Are Delusions?

Many people use the term delusions interchangeably with the term hallucinations, though these are actually two very different things. While hallucinations involve a false sensory perception (such as a nonexistent sight or sound), delusions involve a false belief or a misinterpretation of life’s events. People who suffer with delusions have their senses attuned to reality, though their mind perceives a situation to be significantly different. Some common delusional themes that individuals struggle with include the following:

  • Belief that something or someone is controlling them
  • Belief that a loved one is lying or having an affair with no evidence to support such claims
  • Belief that an insignificant event, such as another person’s head nod, means something much more significant
  • Belief that another person is in love with them when he or she actually have no interest
  • Belief that they are a saint or a god
  • Belief that others can read their mind
  • Belief that they are dead or have lost bodily organs

Though some of these delusions sound odd or eccentric, they can be quite devastating. Those experiencing delusions may become frightened, depressed, or enraged, which can also harm others.

Delusions can develop for a number of reasons. In some cases, they develop for unknown reasons and may be diagnosed as delusional disorder. Other times, delusions occur from a known cause, like substance abuse. Alcohol, amphetamines, marijuana, hallucinogens, opioids, and several other substances have been reported to cause these false beliefs. While the delusions most often occur at the time of intoxication, they may also develop when a person is going through withdrawal.

Are Delusions Dangerous?

Some of the time, substance-induced delusions are just harmless misunderstandings. Others may even find the delusional person’s confusion to be amusing or humorous. However, there are many instances when delusions can actually create a dangerous experience. Those experiencing delusions may interpret a situation in a way that causes them to act irrationally. When this happens, substance users may lash out, inflicting harm on themselves and others. This may manifest in many different ways, though it is most often through physical violence. For example, if a substance user perceives that he is being followed, he may instigate an argument or fight with another individual. Sometimes, those using drugs or alcohol may experience delusional depression that could lead to self-harm or suicide. Lastly, delusional dangers can come in the form of sexual aggression. Delusional individuals may feel that they have gained the love interest of another person, leading them to make unwelcomed sexual advances. Unfortunately, those experiencing delusions are often unable to be convinced that their perceptions are wrong, and they may become even more aggressive when others try to convince them otherwise.

Get Help for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Substance abuse and addiction can result in serious consequences, including delusions. If you or a loved one has become addicted to drugs or alcohol, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatments for addiction.