Substance Intoxication Delirium | Substance Induced Delirium

Substance Intoxication Delirium

Certain substances can have short-term and long-term effects on the brain. According to the National Cancer Institute, a psychoactive drug, also known as a “psychotropic substance,” is something that affects how the brain functions. It can cause changes in mood, thoughts, feelings, awareness, and behavior. Psychoactive substances have been known to cause substance intoxication delirium. What is it and what can trigger it?

There are countless substances that qualify under the umbrella term of psychoactive. Some can include everyday substances such as caffeine and nicotine. Other examples include alcohol, marijuana, and various pain medications. A wide number of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, LSD, and amphetamines are also considered psychoactive drugs. Each can create changes in brain activity, particularly when a substance is misused or abused. In this article we discuss these changes and what to be aware of when considering the negative impacts of substance intoxication.

At AspenRidge, we help to treat individuals who suffer from the effects of addiction. We understand how alcohol and drug abuse can have adverse and unforeseen impacts on both mental and physical health. For immediate assistance contact us directly at 855-281-5588.

What Is Substance Intoxication Delirium

Impacts of Substance Intoxication

Long-term use of such substances can lead to substance intoxication delirium. This is a diagnostic term for alcohol or drug-induced delirium caused by intoxication from a psychoactive drug.

In 2018, substance use disorders affected 20.8 million Americans—almost 8 percent of the adolescent and adult population. That number is similar to the number of people who suffer from diabetes, and more than 1.5 times the annual prevalence of all cancers combined (14 million).Of the 20.8 million people with a substance use disorder in 2015, 15.7 million were in need of treatment for an alcohol problem in 2015 and nearly 7.7 million needed treatment for an illicit drug problem.

Types Of Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive substances can have a detrimental impact on the mind and physical health of an individual. Short-term effects include disturbances in attention and focus, especially when the individual is overtired.

There are several classifications for psychoactive drugs. These include:

  • What the common effects are on the brain and body (i.e, depressants or stimulants)
  • How addictive they are
  • What the chemical structure is of the substance
  • The classification of the drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (schedules from I-V with ‘I’ being the highest potential for abuse and ‘V’ being the lowest)

Psychoactive substances include depressants, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, and marijuana.


Depressant substances, such as alcohol and tranquilizers (benzodiazepine), tend to reduce the feelings of tension and help to relieve anxious thoughts and relax muscles. However, this can lead to addiction where excessive use could result in slow and shallow breathing, a rapid or weak pulse, and clammy skin. In extreme cases, an addicted individual may go into a coma and die.

Find out more about the effects of depressants, such as alcohol, and the changes that can occur in the brain.


These substances result in greater amounts of energy, heightened alertness, euphoria, excitability, and improvement in bodily responses. These drugs tend to cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

Examples of stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines. With excessive use of cocaine, an individual can become irritable and moody with chest pain, hallucinations, heart palpitations, and, in some cases, death.


An example of narcotics is opioids which are either synthetic or derived from poppy plants (opiates). Other types of narcotics are heroin and various painkillers like codeine, oxycodone, and morphine. The effects of these substances include tiredness, confusion, euphoria, pain relief, and a depressed respiratory system.

Addiction to narcotics can cause an array of effects such as vomiting, nausea, convulsions, respiratory issues, coma, and, eventually, death.


Hallucinogens can affect the body and mind in various ways. Examples are depersonalization when someone feels out of touch with reality, paranoia, hallucinations, increased heart rate, and blood pressure. Studies have shown that overuse can lead to issues with speaking and thinking, as well as memory loss. Many also experience depression.

Examples of these substances include LSD, ketamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and psilocybin that stems from mushrooms.

Substance Intoxication Delirium


Also known as cannabis, marijuana has psychoactive effects that can change the sensory perception of an individual, bring on a feeling of euphoria, help to relax the muscles, and change appetite and blood pressure. It can also impair concentration, coordination, and memory.

What Is Substance Intoxication Delirium?

Substance intoxication delirium can affect those who may be addicted to certain drugs and alcohol. Unlike some short-term effects, this has a more serious impact on the long-term health of an individual.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), delirium is a change in an individual’s state and consciousness. This goes on to harmfully disrupt the person’s awareness, attention, and ability to process most or all information in the exterior world around them.

Someone who experiences this delirium tends to have additional disturbances in their cognition. Without help and treatment, this can lead to the person being unable to experience reality in the same way.

There are signs and symptoms of substance intoxication delirium that you can look out for. These include:

  • Difficulty in focusing and directing attention.
  • A loss of attention and focus that causes deficits in memory

Difficulty Focusing & Directing Attention

For someone who experiences delirium, they will find it harder to direct and focus their attention or even keep their attention over time. More often than not, their attention will shift from one thing to another quickly.

If you are worried that someone you know is experiencing delirium, look out for some signs. One is that they may ask you to repeat your questions. They may focus on answering an earlier question even after you have asked a few more. Someone suffering from substance intoxication delirium will be distracted by something that has nothing to do with what they should be focusing on.

In some rare but severe cases, the sufferer could become so disoriented that they are unsure of where or who they are.

Memory Deficit

According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, someone who is experiencing delirium may also develop deficits in memory. They may find it more difficult to remember certain things and even forget recent events. Language, perception, and learning skills can also be severely affected with some people experiencing vivid hallucinations. Furthermore, the individual may also lose their sense of orientation where they struggle to know the current time and date as well as where they are.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or you have noticed a friend or family member exhibiting such signs, you should seek help immediately.

Substance Abuse Delirium

Finding Help With Substance Abuse

If you or someone you know has taken a substance and shows symptoms of delirium, call 911 and inform paramedics on what the substance taken was. Those with substance intoxication disorder or who are in severe withdrawal stages require close medical monitoring. This can be either in a hospital or a treatment center such as AspenRidge.

Contact AspenRidge on 855-281-5588 to discuss our treatment plans and programs

Mental health and addiction treatment need to be unique to each person. Our professional experts offer care that is focused on helping each individual to varying levels of care as they progress through their treatment programs. AspenRidge helps those who suffer from the disease of addiction achieve better outcomes through long-term recovery.

Get in touch to find out more about our one-year continuous treatment programs for mental health, complex trauma, and addiction. We are here for a lifetime of recovery support. More information on what you can expect in recovery contact us directly.