What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis is a scary and potentially dangerous mental illness that is rare but can be very severe. While the causes are unknown for this psychotic disorder, having an episode may signal the need to seek addiction treatment.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Psychosis is a group of symptoms that includes hallucinations and delusions, as well as disorientation and problems with memory. One of the scariest parts of psychosis is that the person will question what is and isn’t real.

Alcohol-induced psychosis may result from alcohol abuse. However, in many cases, treatment is available.

How A Person Develops Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcohol-induced psychosis comes from either drinking excessively in a single instance, withdrawing after drinking excessively, or drinking excessively over a long period of time.

Drinking alcohol can have many effects on the brain. In cases of heavy binge drinking or the presence of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), the brain can become so damaged that a psychosis develops in some people.

What Does Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Look Like?

Alcohol-induced psychosis will vary somewhat for each person, but there are certain symptoms that most people experience.

The two prominent alcohol-induced psychotic symptoms are:

  • hallucinations — these occur when a person sees or hears something that is not there. This can also apply to smell, touch, and taste.
  • delusions — occur when a person strongly believes something to be true that is not, for example that they can speak to God or that they have superpowers.

Other symptoms of psychosis include:

  • agitation or irritability
  • fear or paranoia
  • disorganized or confused thoughts
  • lack of interest in usual activities
  • lethargy
  • lack of self-care
  • trouble with memory
  • mood disturbances
  • inappropriate behavior, like laughing in upsetting situations
  • angry outbursts

Types Of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

The following are the three main types of alcohol-induced psychosis that are related to excessive drinking or withdrawal.

Acute Alcohol Intoxication

This type of alcohol-induced psychosis involves a person reaching a temporary state of psychosis after a single instance of drinking a very large amount of alcohol.

Anyone who has drank the amount of alcohol required to trigger acute alcohol intoxication likely has ingested an amount of alcohol that could also result in alcohol poisoning and should seek medical attention.

This type of alcohol-induced psychosis is considered very rare in the general population.

Alcohol Withdrawal Psychosis

This type of alcohol-induced psychosis occurs as the result of withdrawal from alcohol in someone who previously drank heavily. It is also referred to as delirium tremens, and it can be very serious and even fatal if untreated.

Long-term alcohol consumption can change both the structure and chemistry of a person’s brain, and when someone stops using alcohol suddenly, it can cause a significant shock.

It is believed that this type of withdrawal is triggered by sudden changes in the nervous system.

Chronic Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Chronic alcoholic hallucinosis is very rare and only develops after years of heavy drinking and substance use.

These hallucinations usually occur while the person is drinking heavily or shortly afterward and are predominantly auditory in nature.

While for some the hallucinations will only last for a matter of hours or days at the most, in rare instances the hallucinations will continue into a near-constant state that resembles schizophrenia.

Causes Of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

The causes of alcohol-induced psychosis are not fully known, and it remains a mystery why it happens to some people and not others.

A few possible reasons for the different causes of alcohol-induced psychosis:

  • alcohol withdrawal
  • combining alcohol with other drugs or substances
  • thiamine (B1) deficiency
  • family history
  • alcohol use that started in childhood or teen years

Effects Of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be extremely upsetting for both the person who experiences it and for any friends or loved ones who witness it.

A state of alcohol psychosis can be a sign that someone needs professional addiction treatment, especially if they are drinking to the point where they are risking hurting themselves or others.

An episode of alcohol-induced psychosis may be considered life-threatening and may be the final straw before an intervention is in order, if family members are worried and the person has not gotten help.

How Long Does Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Last?

How long a person’s alcohol-induced psychosis lasts depends on the type of psychosis involved. Someone who has acute intoxication or alcohol withdrawal psychosis will likely find their symptoms resolving in a matter of days and weeks at the most.

For someone who has chronic alcoholic hallucinosis, the alcohol-induced psychosis state can last for many months and can even become a permanent state in severe cases.

Treatment Programs For Alcohol Addiction

Someone who is experiencing any form of alcohol-induced psychosis should seek medical help immediately, as this substance use disorder is dangerous and can be fatal.

To avoid potential withdrawal psychosis, you can detox under medical supervision in an addiction program for alcohol.

These programs are available in inpatient and outpatient formats, and also typically offer mental health therapy and behavioral counseling.

Find Treatment Services For Alcohol Abuse Today

Are you or a loved one currently struggling with an alcohol addiction or any other substance use disorder or mental health condition? At Bedrock Recovery Center, we want to help.

Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you are ready to start recovery at our treatment center or have any questions about treatment options.

Recovery is possible, and you deserve a life free from the effects of alcohol.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459134/
  2. National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3830167/
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm?msclkid=22530d03a56e11ec817046a3401b0549

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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