The Road To Psychosis

Losing Touch With Reality

There is no single road to psychosis. Rather, imagine many small streets and alleyways merging into one big highway, leading to a final endpoint called psychosis. The question is not what psychosis is; that can be observed in any psychiatric patient diagnosed with it. The question rather becomes, how does one end up on a wrong street leading to psychosis?

The medications used in the treatment of ADHD is an example of a route potentially leading to psychosis. In children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD, these medications called stimulants do not cause psychosis; they work to improve the inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

However, it could be possible that an adolescent with ADHD is genetically predisposed to developing schizophrenia. In that case, theoretically, stimulants have the potential of inducing psychosis. But the worry lies with stimulant diversion, when the medications hit the streets and are abused by thousands of high school and college kids for academic purposes.

When stimulants are abused by adolescents and young adults without a diagnosis of ADHD, it does become possible for transient psychosis to develop. Another street leading to psychosis is the genetic predisposition one may have to developing schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental illness which involves hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech or behavior.

The genetics behind developing schizophrenia is in its infancy. It is tied to the two-hit hypothesis, where one is prone to developing schizophrenia based on genetics and environmental stimuli; the first hit being their genetic makeup, followed by something environmentally toxic, such as marijuana!

We have only described two roads that likely lead to psychosis: the abuse of stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate, and the genetics and environmental stimuli that can cause schizophrenia in a susceptible individual. In reality, there are many more roads that can lead to psychosis:

  • The abuse of marijuana by susceptible individuals
  • The abuse of cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, PCP and others
  • A severely traumatic experience resulting in Brief Psychotic Disorder
  • A traumatic-brain injury
  • Dementia-induced psychosis
  • Many medical conditions such as SLE, Huntington Disease, Parkinson Disease, brain tumors, AIDS and other viral etiologies

. . . and the list goes on. Regardless of the road one falls upon, the ultimate destination often involves one common experience: the loss of touch with reality.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)


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