Psychosis is a state characterized by hallucinations, delusions and confused behavior. Alcohol-induced psychosis, also known as alcohol-induced psychotic disorder (AIPD), is a psychotic state caused by alcohol consumption. According to the DSM-V, diagnosis of alcohol-induced psychosis requires the occurrence of significant hallucinations or delusions that begin during or soon after alcohol intoxication or withdrawal.
Alcohol-induced psychosis can occur as a result of heavy alcohol consumption (acute intoxication), chronic consumption or alcohol withdrawal. People addicted to alcohol or who use substantial quantities over an extended period are more likely to develop this condition. Studies also suggest a link between alcohol-induced psychosis and changes in the levels of brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine or serotonin.
However, additional research is needed to understand the biological basis of this severe condition. Alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms are severe and life-threatening, as they can lead to dangerous actions or suicide. Thus, immediate treated is critical.
Alcohol-induced hallucinations are common in those with alcohol-induced psychosis. Hallucinations are sensory experiences that appear real but are created by one’s mind. Hallucinations can include false touches, sounds, sights, smells or tastes. Common hallucinations include:
- Body sensations such as skin-crawling
- Hearing sounds, such as music, dogs barking or gunshots
- Hearing voices that may be threatening or may direct the individual to do something dangerous
- Seeing people, objects or lights that are not present
- Smelling an aroma
Alcoholic hallucinosis is another alcohol-induced psychotic disorder with hallucinations. Alcoholic hallucinosis is a rare condition that may suddenly arise when drinking is stopped after years of chronic, severe alcohol abuse. Alcoholic hallucinosis commonly involves threatening auditory hallucinations such as conversations or music. Hallucinosis may also include delusions, paranoia symptoms and mood instabilities. In severe cases, symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis may lead to suicide.
Alcohol-induced delusions involve false ideas which cannot be corrected by reason. Delusions can include the mistaken belief that one is being watched, betrayed or loved. For example, someone may believe that others are sending them secret messages or following them. Alcohol-induced psychotic disorders with delusions, such as alcohol-induced psychosis, can also include significant paranoid beliefs.
In severe cases, alcohol-induced delusions can consist of alcohol-induced paranoias. Alcohol-induced paranoia symptoms include feeling extremely suspicious of other people and thinking others are out to cause one harm. Paranoia, in turn, leads to social isolation and hostility towards others. Constant mistrust or fear of others can make it difficult to continue with work, school or personal relationships.
Other Symptoms of Alcohol Psychosis
Alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms can also include dissociation. Dissociation is a rare sign of alcohol-induced psychosis and involves feelings of being disconnected from the world or one’s thoughts, memories or sense of identity. Alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) involves additional alcohol-related psychosis symptoms. AWD, also known as delirium tremens, is a severe and dangerous psychotic state that can occur during withdrawal. AWD is more likely to occur during withdrawal in individuals who have used very high quantities of alcohol over an extended period. In addition to hallucinations and delusions, AWD symptoms may include light sensitivity, agitation, rapid heart and breathing rate, confusion, nausea, seizures, tremors and sudden mood changes.
How Long do Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Symptoms Last?
In many cases, alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms end once alcohol consumption is stopped and the alcohol is fully cleared from the body. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including psychosis, can persist for weeks. AWD symptoms most often occur within 48 to 96 hours after drinking ceases. However, symptoms can begin up to 10 days after alcohol cessation. Alcoholic hallucinosis symptoms generally start 12-24 hours after drinking stops and can persist for several days. Persistence of psychosis symptoms long after alcohol cessation indicates a co-occurring mental health condition may be present. In this case, successfully treatment must address both the alcohol use disorder and mental health condition.
Treatment of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Symptoms
Although alcohol-induced psychosis is a severe condition, recovery is possible with the proper treatment. A successful recovery also limits the possibility of life-threatening or long-term alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms. Successful alcohol-induced psychosis treatment requires a multifactorial approach. Discontinuing alcohol consumption is usually the first and most crucial step in alcohol psychosis treatment. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, with risks including seizures, heart attack, stroke or death. Thus, medical detox under the supervision of trained medical professionals is recommended. In many cases, individuals with alcohol-induced psychosis must be admitted to a hospital for initial treatment due to the risks of both psychotic symptoms and alcohol withdrawal. Treatment for alcohol-induced psychosis may also include:
- Inpatient rehab
- Outpatient rehab
- Psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Medications such as benzodiazepines to control seizures and antipsychotics to treat hallucinations and delusions
- Support groups
- Aftercare programs
Since psychosis can be a symptom of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, diagnosis and treatment should include a detailed psychological evaluation to rule out co-occurring conditions. If a co-occurring condition is present, a dual diagnosis treatment program that addresses both the alcohol use disorder and mental health condition is critical to long-term recovery.
If you or a loved one live with alcohol addiction, contact Orlando Recovery Center to speak with a representative who can guide you through the initial steps of getting treatment. You deserve a healthier future; call today.
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Bhat, Pookala; Ryali, VSSR; Srivastava, Kalpana; Kumar, Shashi; Prakash, Jyoti; Singal, Ankit. “Alcoholic Hallucinosis.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, July, 2012. Accessed August 21, 2019.
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