Alcohol-Induced Psychosis: Symptoms & Treatment

Heavy alcohol use changes the way that you think and behave. Intoxication shifts your perceptions and can make you see, hear and believe things that aren’t really there. But if you have significant hallucinations or delusions, you could be suffering from alcoholic psychosis. Alcohol-induced psychosis can happen upon inebriation or while you’re in withdrawal. If you’re not aware of alcohol-induced psychosis, symptoms can be baffling. Understanding alcohol psychosis allows you to pinpoint the condition and get appropriate treatment.

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What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Psychosis is not a mental illness. It’s a symptom of a psychological or physical condition, including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. But it can also appear as a symptom of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol-induced psychosis is an umbrella term that refers to auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations and delusions that are brought on by chronic alcohol use.

In contrast to other psychotic disorders, alcohol-induced psychosis doesn’t usually affect the individual’s consciousness or vital signs. However, it is dangerous for the individual with the psychosis as well as the people around them. Some experts refer to alcohol-induced psychosis as alcoholic hallucinosis. It typically manifests itself in the following circumstances:

  • During or after acute intoxication or alcohol poisoning
  • Alcohol withdrawal psychosis, which occurs if you stop drinking suddenly when you’re dependent on the substance
  • Chronically in people who drink heavily and regularly

Approximately 4% of people who are dependent on alcohol develop alcohol-induced psychosis. Although the condition is relatively rare, it’s important to recognize. Individuals with a diagnosis of alcoholic hallucinosis have a 65% risk of relapse. They also have up to a 30% chance of developing chronic psychotic symptoms.

Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

The primary symptoms of any alcohol-induced psychosis include delusions and hallucinations. The individual experiencing alcohol-induced psychosis may have trouble identifying what’s real. This often leads to secondary symptoms, such as fear, aggression and confusion. Some of the most prominent alcohol induced psychosis symptoms include:

  • Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or feeling things that aren’t there
  • Disorientation and disorganized thoughts
  • Holding false beliefs about yourself, others or the world around you
  • Persecutory delusions, or a belief that someone is after you
  • Parasitic hallucinations, or the sensation that insects are crawling on or under the skin
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Inappropriate behavior and outbursts
  • Difficulty holding a conversation
  • Trouble performing daily tasks and routines

These symptoms may appear for a few hours, or they could last for up to a few weeks. For example, the first time you experience alcohol-induced psychosis during a binge-drinking episode, it may be short-lived. However, each instance increases your chances of having another one. If you continue to drink heavily and regularly, you run the risk of having multiple long-term, back-to-back episodes or developing a chronic form of the condition.

Also, each instance is life-threatening. Alcohol poisoning can cause a complete shutdown of your body’s vital systems in addition to causing psychosis. Cold-turkey withdrawal after chronic heavy drinking can overstimulate your central nervous system, causing dangerous changes in your vital signs. When you add alcohol-induced psychosis to these situations, you also run the risk of hurting yourself or others.

Is Delirium Tremens the Same as Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Most people are more familiar with the term delirium tremens than alcohol-induced psychosis. Delirium tremens is an intense form of alcohol-induced psychosis that can occur during withdrawal. This level of alcoholic hallucinosis is rare. It typically develops in people who are significantly dependent on alcohol and have been for a long time. Some of these individuals start to show symptoms of delirium tremens about four to seven days into withdrawal. Delirium tremens is so extreme that it is fatal in up to 37% of people who develop the condition if it goes untreated. It’s vital to recognize the symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis so that you can stop the condition from developing into delirium tremens.

Symptoms of Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens affects your vital signs. In addition to the general symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis, delirium tremens can produce the following complications:

  • Extreme sensory sensitivity
  • Increased respiration and heart rates
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Impairments in cognition and consciousness
  • Intense autonomic nervous system agitation

Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcohol-induced psychosis sounds extreme and obvious. But it’s not always evident from the outside. Someone who has episodes of alcoholic psychosis may start to isolate themselves to hide their symptoms. They may stop paying attention to their obligations or personal hygiene. They may act confused or have outbursts.

The delusions of someone with alcohol-induced psychosis could be mistaken for inebriation. But if the break with reality is extreme, the symptoms can mimic those of schizophrenia. It’s essential to get appropriate treatment. Alcohol-induced psychosis must be addressed differently than a psychotic disorder. In many cases, people with alcoholic hallucinosis who undergo treatment and stop drinking never experience the condition again.

Emergency Treatment

Anyone who is experiencing alcohol-related psychosis should be seen by a medical professional immediately. Patients may need sedatives, restraints and constant supervision. The goal is to stabilize them before continuing with detox or rehabilitation.

Medically Supervised Detox

If people who develop alcoholic hallucinosis continue to drink, they are likely to have recurrent incidents with psychosis. Therefore, detox should be the first step in their treatment. But because individuals with alcohol-induced psychosis are so dependent on the substance, they should be medically supervised as they go through withdrawal. Detox can be dangerous for individuals who are reliant on alcohol.

Your withdrawal should be supervised by a medical professional to ensure that it’s safe. Medications, such as benzodiazepines, can be used to minimize withdrawal symptoms and minimize the chances of developing alcohol-induced psychosis at this stage.

Treatment After Detox is Key

Getting treatment from a substance abuse specialist is crucial to your recovery. Quitting drinking doesn’t address the associated psychological and physical complications of alcoholism. A comprehensive treatment plan can help you remain in recovery and cope with lasting symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis.

Sometimes, nutritional deficiencies are responsible for alcoholic hallucinosis. In these patients, supplementation with thiamine can help. The best way to treat alcohol-induced psychosis is to stay sober. A rehab facility such as Burning Tree, which offers customized programs, can help you stay healthy and alcohol free.

Find an Inpatient Rehab Program Now

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Call our admissions team to find the best for long-term recovery.

(866) 287-2877


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