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What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

5 minute read

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be frightening for the individual and those around them. It’s triggered by excessive alcohol consumption and other factors, such as co-occurring disorders. Alcohol-induced psychosis is a set of psychiatric symptoms. These may include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Alcoholic paranoia
  • Generally losing touch with reality

Types of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcohol-related psychosis is categorized into three areas:

1. Alcohol Withdrawal Psychosis

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and even deadly. It can also bring about a temporary form of psychosis. Alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) is a psychosis that long-time heavy drinkers are at risk for when they quit drinking. Alcohol-induced psychosis can be a part of what is more commonly known as delirium tremens (DTs). People with DTs sometimes experience hallucinations or delusions. They may also feel like bugs are crawling on their skin.

2. Acute Alcohol Intoxication

Acute alcohol psychosis can occur when you drink excessive amounts of alcohol. One night of binge drinking can trigger acute psychosis. This type of substance-induced psychosis is rare. It usually occurs when people drink similar amounts of alcohol which lead to alcohol poisoning. Most people will become unconscious before any psychotic symptoms appear.

3. Chronic Alcoholic Hallucinosis

People who’ve been abusing alcohol for years are at risk for alcoholic hallucinosis. If you have alcoholic hallucinosis, you may experience auditory hallucinations: hearing sounds that aren’t there. Some people also experience:

  • Erratic mood shifts
  • Delusions
  • Visual and tactile hallucinations

This type of alcohol-induced psychosis may occur sporadically for hours or days. Over time, alcoholic hallucinosis can begin mimicking symptoms of schizophrenia and last indefinitely. In some cases, chronic alcoholic hallucinosis leads to brain damage. This may include Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and long-term psychotic disorders.

Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

If you have alcohol-induced psychosis, you may experience a range of symptoms. These can vary in severity from hallucinations and paranoia to completely losing touch with reality. To an outsider, people in this state of mind may appear frightened or confused. Some people become aggressive and violent. People with this reaction may exhibit a few or several of the symptoms below:

  • Paranoia, such as fear of persecution or thinking others are “out to get them”
  • Agitation
  • Acting strangely or inappropriately
  • Fear
  • Inability to hold a conversation
  • Jumbled thoughts
  • Crying, laughing, or having other reactions inappropriate for the situation
  • Hallucinating sounds, sights, or feelings
  • Talking to oneself or someone who’s not there
  • Scratching oneself – Some people hallucinate the feeling of bugs crawling on them.
  • Aggression or violence and lashing out for no reason
  • Losing touch with reality
  • False beliefs

Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Dangerous?

While heavy drinking can cause many dangerous health effects, alcohol-induced psychosis doesn’t directly impact physical health. The dangers of alcohol-induced psychosis come indirectly through its symptoms. If left untreated, people who are hallucinating or paranoid may put themselves or others in danger because of their distorted perceptions of reality and a false belief that they need to protect themselves from harm.

Who Suffers from Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Anyone who drinks excessively or has an alcohol addiction is at risk for alcohol-induced psychosis. People who are at increased risk for alcohol-related psychosis include:

  • Heavy drinkers over age 40
  • People with schizophrenia
  • People with mental health disorders
  • People going through alcohol withdrawal who have delirium tremens (DTs)
  • People with a blood alcohol level concentration (BAC) high enough to cause alcohol poisoning
  • People with thiamine (B1) deficiency
  • People who are abusing other substances that come with risks of psychosis, such as methamphetamine
  • People who’ve had a previous episode of alcohol-induced psychosis

How Long Does Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Last?

How long alcohol-induced psychosis lasts depends on the type and severity of the episode. It’s also linked to your personal mental health factors. People typically begin seeing symptoms of these episodes within 24 hours of their last drink because of alcohol withdrawal . Psychotic symptoms associated with alcohol can last for a couple days, and longer in rare cases. Alcohol-induced psychosis due to acute intoxication should subside after all the alcohol has left your body. Chronic alcoholic hallucinosis episodes can last for days, weeks, or months.

How to Prevent Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Abstinence from alcohol—not drinking—is the best way to prevent this symptom. Anyone who drinks heavily or has an alcohol use disorder (AUD) is at risk for alcohol induced psychosis. People who’ve already experienced an episode are at greater risk of having another one. Following guidelines for moderate drinking or maintaining abstinence from alcohol will safeguard you from this condition.

How Do You Treat Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Anyone with alcohol-induced psychosis should get medical help immediately. Medical professionals may treat alcohol-induced psychosis by:

  • Stabilizing the patient
  • Ensuring no blockage to the airway or breathing
  • Checking vital signs
  • Administering neuroleptic medications, like haloperidol, or atypical antipsychotics, such as olanzapine or ziprasidone if sedation is necessary
  • Physically restraining the patient if they pose a risk to themselves or others
  • Administering benzodiazepines like lorazepam if there is a risk of seizures and alcohol withdrawal
  • Evaluating the patient for suicidal thoughts and behaviors

It’s critical to get professional addiction treatment if you or someone you love has experienced alcohol-induced psychosis. You have a serious alcohol use disorder if your drinking has led to such an extreme outcome. Drug and alcohol rehabs provide medically supervised alcohol detox followed by structured and supportive treatment that helps you maintain long-term recovery.

Get Help for Alcohol Abuse

Addiction doesn’t get better on its own. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse, don’t wait to get help. Footprints to Recovery’s treatment centers have helped thousands of people take back their lives from substance abuse. Our highly experienced clinicians provide evidence-based treatment. We help you address the root causes of substance use disorders and teach you skills needed for long-term recovery. Footprints offer all levels of care, including inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab options:

It’s possible to take back your life from alcohol. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation and to learn about our treatment programs.


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