Drug addiction takes a toll on so many aspects of a person’s life. It can cause job loss, financial problems, and the alienation of friends and family. Drug abuse and addiction can also cause mental health problems. Chronic use of illicit drugs can alter brain chemicals and pathways, leading to the development of mental illnesses. When a person has a diagnosis for two mental health conditions, such as addiction and depression or addiction and anxiety, this is known as a dual diagnosis. One dual diagnosis commonly associated with drug abuse is addiction and paranoia.
Paranoia is a type of delusion, which means a thought that has no basis in reality. People with paranoia have irrational thoughts about what other people are thinking or their own role in the world. Some examples of paranoid thoughts are:
- An irrational feeling of extreme suspicion about the people around you
- An irrational feeling of deep distrust of the people around you, whether you known them or not
- An irrational belief that there is a special meaning in the way people look at you or behind their tone of voice when they talk to you
- An irrational belief that there is a special, secret message directed at you on the television, radio, internet, or through the newspaper, mass mailing
- An irrational belief that you have a special role in the world that no one else is aware of or that others might be trying to prevent
You might be wondering: what could cause a person to develop paranoia? Certainly, paranoia is a hallmark of several mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. But as mentioned above, drug abuse and addiction can also trigger paranoia. In some cases, the paranoia occurs during drug intoxication. In other cases, withdrawal causes paranoia. Specific drugs that are associated with paranoia during withdrawal include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD, and bath salts.
Drugs that are known to cause paranoia during intoxication include marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, LSD, MDMA, bath salts, and alcohol. Each drug causes paranoia because of the way it alters normal brain function and chemistry.
- Marijuana: A 2014 study by Oxford University, the University of Manchester, and King’s College London found that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, caused paranoid thoughts as well as anxiety, lowered mood, worry, and negative thoughts about one’s self. Their explanation is that having this conglomeration of negative thoughts gives a person a negative outlook on the world that increases paranoia. The paranoia caused by marijuana is temporary and ends when the effects of marijuana wear off.
- Methamphetamines: Methamphetamines have been shown to cause paranoia by disrupting the part of the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. The brain typically produces dopamine in response to pleasant stimuli such as a hug, good food, or time with family. Methamphetamines cause the brain to produce 12 to 13 times more dopamine than usual. This produces the high associated with meth abuse, but over time it disrupts the brain’s ability to properly regulate emotions. This can cause paranoia.
- Cocaine: Cocaine affects brain chemistry in a similar manner to methamphetamines, by increasing dopamine levels to achieve a recreational high. Over time, chronic cocaine abuse alters the brain’s ability to regulate emotions, potentially leading to paranoia. As many as 68% to 84% of cocaine users will experience paranoia. This paranoia may last for as little as a few hours or it may persist for days or weeks.
- Bath Salts: Bath salts are the street name for a relatively new type of street drug technically known as synthetic cathinones. They are synthetic versions of naturally occurring cathinones, which are derived from the khat plant from East Africa and Southern Arabia. While synthetic cathinones act similarly in the body to natural cathinones, they are much more potent. Like cocaine and meth, cathinones are stimulant drugs that affect the brain in a similar manner, but may be as much as 10 times more powerful than cocaine. Like these other drugs, synthetic cathinones cause paranoia by disrupting the brain’s dopamine pathways.
- LSD: Hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD affect the brain by interfering with serotonin, a brain chemical normally involved in feelings of well-being and happiness. LSD changes the brain pathways that utilize serotonin, leading to the hallucinations associated with an LSD high. Users perceive the world in an altered way, seeing things that are not there, hearing sounds that are not real, and feeling sensations that do not exist. This altered perceptive state can lead to feelings of paranoia. These feelings typically wear off when the LSD wears off, which may take up to 12 hours.
- MDMA (Molly): MDMA is a synthetic drug that is chemically similar to stimulants, such as cocaine and meth, and hallucinogens such as LSD. It can produce the extremely pleasant high associated with stimulants as well as the altered perceptions associated with hallucinogens. MDMA use affects both dopamine pathways and serotonin pathways. By disrupting those pathways, MDMA can lead to paranoia.
- Alcohol: Paranoia caused by alcohol abuse occurs during withdrawal from alcohol. Chronic alcohol abuse causes changes in the brain that make it dependent on alcohol just to function normally. The sudden change in blood alcohol level when a person stops drinking causes the brain and the rest of the central nervous system to go into a state of hyperexcitability. This state can lead to hallucinations and paranoia, especially about 12 to 24 hours after the last drink. Alcohol withdrawal can have a wide range of physical symptoms, some of them dangerous. For this reason, it is important to undergo alcohol detox under the supervision of medical professionals in a detox facility.
While a dual diagnosis of paranoia and addiction sounds daunting, help is available. In many cases, the paranoia only lasts while actively abusing drugs, so treating the addiction will treat the paranoia as well. Blu By The Sea offers a holistic approach to treating drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Our team of medical professionals can help support you through recovery and into long-term sobriety while healing your body and mind. We offer supervised detox to help you make it through withdrawal. Our therapists offer counseling to help you understand why you turned to substance abuse in the first place and how to navigate the world substance-free. Our nutritionists and chef can help you to nourish your body during the recovery process. You can heal your body physically through our yoga classes, gym workouts, or long walks on our beach. At Blu By The Sea, you can truly heal your body and soul. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call us today.