Earlier this week I received a call from a distressed young man who was trying to help his partner who was getting into difficulty with crystal. After a brief chat it became obvious that his partner was experiencing psychotic symptoms and that he needed professional help. Having a person in your life who is psychotic can be extremely distressing. Recognising the problem can be difficult, and in the early stages can be mistaken for the normal ups and downs that many of us experience. When you realise what is actually happening it can be confronting and trying to work out how to approach the person can be extremely challenging.
So how should you relate to a person who is psychotic? Most importantly, take care of yourself – it’s important not to put yourself at risk. If they are in a really bad way, it may simply not be possible for you to be involved – you may need to call for professional assistance. Speak to your doctor or call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) who will be able to refer you to appropriate services for the person and yourself.
If you do try to speak to your friend, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not – your friend may be having problems sorting out reality from fantasy anyway. Try to maintain the relationship you’ve always had. Gain information and understand that the person may be behaving and talking differently due to the psychotic symptoms. Unfortunately people can say some pretty awful things when they are going through a psychotic episode. Try not to take it personally if they say hurtful words to you when they are unwell. Listen to them with interest to gain an understanding of their current reality. This is done to show sympathy and to keep for future reference to discuss when they are better.
One of the things we do know about “speed psychosis” is that it is caused by having toxic levels of amphetamine in the blood. If you stop using the drug you will most probably fully recover. So the key way to help people at this stage is to get them to stop using. However, as they are feeling paranoid, and often hallucinating, this can prove a very difficult task.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blasé.

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