Alcohol-Induced Psychosis: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Last Updated: April 24, 2024

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Psychosis is a mental state in which someone is detached from reality. Psychosis can have many different causes, and alcohol-induced psychosis is the term used to describe psychosis caused by alcohol use. Alcohol-induced psychosis is different from psychosis caused by mental illnesses like schizophrenia, but it can still be worsened by underlying mental health conditions.

What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis is any form of psychosis caused by the use of alcohol. There are three main causes of alcohol-induced psychosis, including:

  • Acute intoxication: Being drunk can cause psychosis, resulting in a feeling of being disconnected from reality. It typically only occurs with very heavy alcohol use.
  • Alcoholic hallucinosis: Alcoholic hallucinosis is an uncommon form of alcohol-induced psychosis that only occurs in people who use alcohol heavily for long periods of time. This condition causes hallucinations during and after drinking.
  • Withdrawal psychosis: This form of alcohol-induced psychosis actually occurs when someone stops drinking. It happens temporarily during intense alcohol withdrawal and can cause a complete detachment from reality.

Can Alcohol Make You Paranoid?

Paranoia is the feeling that you are being threatened by someone or something, even though there is little to no evidence that this is actually the case. People with paranoia will often seem irrationally suspicious and accusatory, believing that inconsequential actions have deep, sinister meanings.

Alcohol can cause paranoia, making those who heavily use alcohol suspicious of the actions of others. Paranoia is a form of psychosis because it is not founded in reality. It cannot be dismissed with rational explanations, and a person who has developed alcohol-related paranoia will not be able to be talked out of it.

Alcohol Dissociation

Dissociation is a mental health condition that occurs when someone becomes disconnected from their emotions, thoughts and feelings. Alcohol can lead to dissociation, but it more commonly makes existing dissociation worse.

Someone with an existing dissociative disorder may be more likely to use alcohol to reconnect with their feelings, and this may help for a short time. Over the long term, however, alcohol will cause a greater feeling of emotional disconnect. This is because alcohol use causes social isolation and affects normal emotional function.

Can Alcohol Make You Hallucinate?

Being intoxicated, going through alcohol withdrawal or drinking heavily can cause you to hallucinate. Hallucinations can be visual, auditory or both, but they most commonly occur in auditory form. Hallucinations cause people to see or hear things that are not actually there, and it can be very difficult to tell that a hallucination is not real.

Alcohol Psychosis Symptoms

Psychosis symptoms can vary for each person and each specific episode, but the condition is ultimately characterized by a disconnect from reality. Signs and symptoms of psychosis can include:

  • Seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that other people cannot
  • Belief that things are true when they are not
  • Suspicion of others, even though there is no foundation for this suspicion
  • Feeling disconnected from one’s body
  • Rapid, constant speech
  • Confused conversation that is impossible to follow
  • Frequent losses in one’s train of thought

Acute Alcoholic Psychosis

Acute alcoholic psychosis is the form of alcoholic psychosis that occurs when you are intoxicated. This form of psychosis is normally only present with heavy drinking and can include hallucinations and other symptoms of psychosis. Many people who have alcoholic psychosis due to intoxication may also have blackouts that obscure memory of hallucinations or other psychotic symptoms that occurred.

Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Alcoholic hallucinosis is a relatively rare form of alcohol-induced psychosis that can occur during or after heavy drinking. This condition causes hallucinations that are not specifically related to being drunk or going through alcohol withdrawal. These are typically auditory hallucinations that sound as if someone is speaking. Alcoholic hallucinosis can become a chronic alcoholic psychosis, creating a condition similar to schizophrenia.

Alcoholic Hallucinosis Treatment

Alcoholic hallucinosis can be scary and is a definite sign that alcohol use is too heavy. This form of alcohol-induced psychosis is uncommon, causing research in the area to be inconclusive. However, there are signs that certain medications, such as benzodiazepines, could help reduce some of the symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis. Ultimately, stopping alcohol use is the best way to deal with symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis and prevent the symptoms from occurring again.

Alcohol Withdrawal Psychosis

Withdrawal can occur when quitting alcohol, and psychosis may develop as your body adjusts to alcohol’s absence. This most commonly causes hallucinations to occur, but it can also lead to other psychotic symptoms, such as feeling disconnected from reality. Alcohol withdrawal psychosis can occur by itself or as part of another withdrawal-related condition called delirium tremens.

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens is a life-threatening condition that occurs with alcohol withdrawal. It is fatal in 37% of cases if left untreated. Delirium tremens causes a complete disconnect with reality that includes hallucinations and an inability to recognize others. It can also cause someone to believe they are in a completely different environment, typically a negative one. Delirium tremens should always be managed by health care professionals due to the severe risk of harm that can occur.

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Treatment

Treatment of alcohol-induced psychosis usually involves stopping the use of alcohol and getting through withdrawal symptoms. In chronic cases of alcoholic hallucinosis, long-term psychiatric medications may be necessary to control symptoms. In most other situations, stopping alcohol use and getting through the withdrawal process will be enough to stop ongoing psychosis. Still, it’s important to discuss your specific situation with a doctor if you are experiencing psychosis.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox is the process of allowing the body to adjust to alcohol’s absence while taking care of withdrawal symptoms that can occur. Detox from alcohol can be dangerous if severe withdrawal symptoms arise, so professional help during detox is recommended. Alcohol detox typically takes seven to 10 days.

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient alcohol rehab occurs after detox and involves living in a rehab facility where intensive therapy is provided. Living in a facility reduces potential exposure to alcohol while also providing access to resources that help address cravings and addiction. Inpatient rehab is a more intense form of rehab, but it allows for a better chance of lasting recovery due to the help it provides in the first weeks of sobriety.

Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Outpatient alcohol rehab is best for those who have a more minor alcohol addiction and are undergoing addiction treatment for the first time. Outpatient rehab involves living your normal life while routinely visiting the treatment center for therapy sessions or checkups. While less disruptive, this method is also less intensive and tends to be less effective as a result.

Alcohol and Mental Health Treatment Centers

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or a co-occurring mental health disorder, the Orlando Recovery Center can help. Located in Orlando, Florida, our state-of-the-art rehab treatment center specializes in dual diagnosis treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions like psychosis.

Our spacious facility provides a calm, relaxing environment that allows you to focus solely on what matters most — your recovery. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can help you achieve a healthier, alcohol-free life.

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