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How Family Therapy Helped Ann Recover from Substance Induced Psychosis

A Story of How Family Therapy Is Used to Treat Drug-Induced Psychosis


Updated November 16, 2013

This story provides an example of how Family Therapy helped Ann recover from drug-induced psychosis. While the characters and the story are fictitious, the characteristics and circumstances described are typical of people who come for treatment. Ann’s story is presented for illustrative purposes, to help readers understand how Family Therapy can help people recover from substance-induced psychosis.

I am a 28 year old, single, lesbian, living at home with my parents. I knew I was attracted to women from my teenage years, and my parents found out when I was 15, and my Mon walked in on me and my girlfriend. They were awesome about it, and said I could do whatever I want and they would always be there for me. My college years were amazing, non-stop partying with no judgement. I smoked marijuana most days, and took ecstasy, cocaine, or meth, at night. I had a great group of friends, who had one rule about drugs -- anything except heroin was cool. My parents didn’t care what state I was in when I got home.

One night when I was 24, I overdid it, and ended up in the hospital, talking nonsense and acting really hyper. They kept me in overnight, and it gave me a bit of a scare, so I went to a detox centre to try and get off drugs. They took a harm reduction approach, and they said it was OK to carry on using marijuana and alcohol afterwards. But after I got out, something was different. I felt everyone was looking at me, judging me, that they could tell I was gay or a drug user by the way I stood or held a cup. It got worse and worse, and eventually it came to the point where I would stay home all day to avoid the stares, and the voices in my head saying they all know about me. My parents drank in the evening and liked me to join them, but the next day, I would feel worse. Eventually, I told my doctor. He referred me to an ABAM addiction medicine doctor and a family therapist.

The doctor told me I had substance-induced psychosis, probably caused by the meth I took that night, and that I would have to stop taking all drugs and alcohol permanently. In family therapy, we talked about how accepting my parents were, but how this didn’t help me to stay abstinent, and how the paranoia would continue unless I stopped all drugs and alcohol. I’ve always thought my parents were supportive, but I started to see a different side to them in therapy. They were very defensive and insisted they were great parents, although eventually they admitted they had a hard time setting limits and accepting that having alcohol around at home was setting me up to fail.

Some of the time, it felt like it was us against the therapist. Then I got paranoid about my parents. I started wondering whether maybe they didn’t care about my mental illness because it kept me home with them. We worked through this in family therapy and they agreed to stop drinking at home. It was a slow, painful process coming back to reality, but now, a year later, I am completely abstinent, and the paranoia only happens during times of stress, like in a job interview. My parents have higher expectations of me now, and I hope to one day get a job and become independent.

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