When Bad Meth Trips Never End

For a person in the middle of a serious drug trip, hallucinations, confusion and raging emotions can make it feel as if he or she is teetering on the edge of insanity.

Depending on the drug and the person, it very well might be true.

In an issue of Marie Claire, singer Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson of the Black Eyed Peas describes a harrowing drug trip from crystal meth -- a drug known for its distressing psychological aftermath.

"I had about 20 different conspiracy theories. I painted the windows in my apartment black so they couldn't see in," Fergie told Marie Claire, explaining that she thought the FBI was after her during her brief addiction to methamphetamines around 2001.

"One day, when I was about 90 pounds, a guy comes up to me. ... I'm searching in the bushes for clues about whatever they're after me for. I'm in a cowboy hat and red lips. He hands me a muffin. I'm thinking, he's in on it," Fergie said.

But for all of the horror in Fergie's FBI scare, she might have been at risk for something worse.

The paranoid delusions of a drug user and the experience of a person with mental health issues barely differ.

"They're the same thing," said Dr. William Compton, director of the division of epidemiology services and prevention research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

And unlike other drugs, methamphetamines can directly cause a permanent psychosis -- the technical term for a delusion or a hallucination.

A Cause, or Just a Trigger?

More commonly referred to as a "bad trip," the psychotic symptoms from drugs can arise for a number of reasons.

Marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol withdrawal can all indirectly trigger symptoms of a psychosis. But for these drugs, a secondary culprit also contributes to the hallucinations or delusions, and the mechanism isn't always clear, says Dr. Karen Miotto, director of the University of California-Los Angeles' Alcoholism and Addiction Medicine Service.

"Is it a sleep deprivation? Is it an underlying anxiety disorder that's being exacerbated?" Miotto said.

With methamphetamine and cocaine, it's more the drug, not the person that contributes to the psychotic symptoms.

Cocaine addicts often fall victim to paranoid delusions surrounding the drug -- where is the cocaine? who hid the cocaine? who stole it? -- but methamphetamine addiction is worse, Miotto says.

"With methamphetamine, they're just plan bizarre," Miotto said. "[Methamphetamine users] can think people are after them -- that their child is trying to poison them."

They can go through "a prolonged or persistent psychotic reaction that doesn't end with the 12 hours in the emergency room," Miotto said. Moreover, even if methamphetamines don't cause a permanent psychosis, drug users risk developing depression.

Changing the Brain

Former methamphetamine addict Buffie Cross, 39, started using drugs when she was 26.

"The feeling would start with a rush -- it was euphoric," Cross said. But after only a week she remembers feeling a range of psychological symptoms.

"There were some stuffed animals sitting on the floor, and those things got up and started dancing," she said. "You think you're being followed, or they come out from behind the trees and stuff."

"I became where I obsessively wrote random crap," said Cross, who remembers her writing obsession lasted for two weeks at a time.

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