Welcome back to Part Three of our series of meth-induced psychosis. We thank you for your patience, and for allowing us to put this topic on hold in favor of our Share the Warmth Coat and Clothing Drive. Today, we’re going to go over the science of meth-induced psychosis, and the impact this stimulant has on the brain. For those who would like a refresher, you can find Part One and Part Two by following the respective links.
Before we continue, however, we need to acknowledge that the science here isn’t perfect. While researchers know more about brain function than ever before, the subject is extremely complex. Moreover, what we know about the effects of meth, specifically, is somewhat limited. For example, meth-induced psychosis does not occur in every user. Why that is though, no one can say for sure. Some scientists think the reasons may depend on anything from length of use to genetics.
Don’t misunderstand that information, though. Just because meth won’t cause psychosis in every user doesn’t make it any safer. Indeed, meth is an extremely addictive substance. It has the potential to ruin lives and damage the cardiovascular and neurological systems, even for those who do not experience more acute symptoms.
And, just because the science isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we can’t learn quite a bit from the available data. So, without further ado, let’s dive into our final discussion of meth-induced psychosis.
The Science of Psychosis
Psychosis, as we’ve discussed in previous articles, is a loss of connection with reality. It can come with auditory or visual hallucinations, anger and aggression, paranoia, and more. There’s already a good bit of research on psychosis in general. And some of these studies point to the frontal cortex and the hippocampus as core components of this debilitating state of mind.
The frontal cortex is responsible for higher thought such as processing and assigning meaning to emotions, problem-solving, social interactions, and more. The hippocampus is a big part of learning, memory formation, and experiencing our emotions. It makes sense, then, that these two parts of the brain might have an impact on the extreme emotions, difficulty perceiving reality, and assigning appropriate meaning to an event. All of which, you may note, are characteristic of psychotic episodes.
Neurotransmitters may also play a role in the development and manifestation of psychosis. Neurotransmitters are the chemical signals that inform certain parts of the brain. They help regulate brain function and a wide variety of cognitive processes. Most notably for this discussion, researchers think that dopamine may help explain why some brains experience psychotic symptoms and others don’t.
Of course, there’s more to psychosis, and more brain regions involved. But, for now, that’s enough to form some general understanding of what might be taking place inside a psychotic brain. And for the purposes of this article, a general understanding is all we need.
How Does Meth Impact the Brain?
Let’s take a quick inventory of what we’ve learned. First, scientists already know that psychosis has a lot to do with disturbances in the hippocampus and the frontal cortex. Second, dopamine may also play a key role in how psychotic symptoms develop. You probably aren’t surprised, then, to find that meth impacts these parts of the brain as well.
Yes, it’s true. Meth alters activity in the frontal cortex, even as far as changing to very structure of that area. That, naturally, can lead to disturbances in behavior and personality. Furthermore, other studies have shown nerve terminal degeneration in the hippocampus of meth-exposed rats, which can explain poor mood regulation and other symptoms of psychosis.
Though meth’s damaging impact doesn’t stop there. Some studies have recently detailed how meth overstimulates the temporal lobe and affects the amygdala which can help further explain the hallucinations, paranoia, and aggression associated with this stimulant.
Of course, we’re not scientists, but putting all of that together – we can easily start to build an understanding of why meth may cause psychotic symptoms in its users.
Does Dopamine Depletion Cause Psychosis?
As we mentioned, neurotransmitters are a critical part of how the brain functions. And, naturally, illicit meth absolutely impacts their transmission and depletion. This is especially true of dopamine.
You see, dopamine is associated with how we identify if something is pleasurable, important, interesting, or worthwhile. It helps keep our attention focused and engaged in necessary behaviors for survival. As it happens, meth is so good at fooling neurons that some can actually absorb it – which will then cause those neurons to release lots of dopamine all at once. (Some studies even indicate about 10x more than the usual amount.) This is what causes the extreme euphoria associated with meth. Unfortunately, it also causes the inevitable crash and can play a part in depressive cycles too.
So, when we pair that information with the dopamine hypothesis of psychosis, it makes even more sense why meth might generate psychotic symptoms in certain individuals.
Some estimate that as many as two-thirds of meth users will develop some sort of psychosis. Others suggest that chronic meth users maybe eleven times more likely to develop psychotic symptoms. And if that isn’t alarming enough, meth doesn’t disappear once it’s smoked. Residual meth lingers, and it has the potential to make you ill. No doubt about it, it’s not a substance you want in your home, residual or not.
As such, we always recommend testing before buying and selling a house or property, or any time you notice the symptoms of residual meth exposure.
To have your home or property tested, call a Certified Decontamination Specialist in your area. If you’re in Utah, call AEI Decon. We’re here to help with all your testing and decontamination needs. (801) 888-6698.