Can Alcohol Induce Psychosis? How Does This Occur?

alcohol psychosis

A very serious but rare condition that can be brought on by the consumption of alcohol is alcohol-induced psychosis. While many drink alcohol to relax or to have a good time with family and friends, many are unaware of the many risks that are associated. There are many negative effects alcohol has on the mind and body. The risks of alcohol consumption vary due to the length of time, the amount consumed, and our own chemical makeup or genetics.  

Alcohol’s Impact on the Body

  • The brain’s pathways of communication
  • Liver
  • Heart
  • Pancreas 
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Immune System 
  • Skin

What is Psychosis?

The word psychosis is described as a mental break from reality. It is essentially the loss of reality and the confusion of what is real and not real. Psychosis is not a mental health illness. It is a symptom of another mental health diagnosis’. It can occur with the presence of other mental health conditions or it can be induced through substance use disorders. One of which is alcohol use disorder. 

Psychosis can include a hallucination, a delusion, or dissociation. Hallucination and delusion are words that are often confused and believed to be the same or have the same definition. They are not the same but are in fact similar. Below describes three main symptoms of psychosis for better clarification. 

  • The first symptom is a hallucination. A hallucination involves seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and feeling that something or somewhere is real. Essentially a hallucination involves all or some of our senses. Those experiencing a hallucination may experience drugs entering their system or the experience of bugs crawling all over them. 
  • The second symptom is delusion. A delusion is a belief that an idea is real and true even if it is not. A delusion may come in the form of paranoia. Those experiencing a delusion may feel like the world is after them or someone is trying to get them.
  • The third symptom that may arise is dissociation. Dissociation is described as the feeling of being unattached from the world and sometimes from themselves. They may even feel that they are not real or others are not real even if they are. Dissociation may also be labeled as depersonalization. Both are rare in occurrence over hallucinations or delusions. 

Psychosis is generally brought on by mental health conditions such as schizophrenia but can also be caused by the use of substances. The following is a full list of symptoms of psychosis.

  • Incoherent Speech
  • Problems with memory
  • Lack of clear thought or focus
  • The inability to apply knowledge to make a choice or decision
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • The inability to differentiate reality from fantasy
  • False beliefs or delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disturbed thoughts

What is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis or alcohol-induced psychosis disorder is a psychotic state brought on by the consumption or withdrawal of alcohol.  Meaning that for a diagnosis to take place the symptoms above must take place during or directly after intoxication from alcohol or during withdrawal. A diagnosis of alcohol-induced psychosis generally means that the symptoms will end once the consumption or withdrawal has ended. 

What Are The Types of Alcohol-Induced Psychotic Disorders? 

Alcohol-induced psychosis or alcohol-induced psychotic disorder is able to be broken down into three main forms. 

  • Acute intoxication or alcohol poisoning
  • Alcohol withdrawal delirium
  • Chronic or long term alcohol use disorder

Type one of alcohol-induced psychotic disorder: Acute Intoxication

Acute intoxication, although uncommon, can occur after binge drinking alcohol. Binge drinking is the consumption of a large amount of alcohol in one evening or sitting. Hospitalization tends to occur in these instances. Which is also highly recommended due to the likelihood of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is a very serious occurrence and can lead to death if not treated properly. The signs that can present themselves during this form of alcohol-induced psychotic disorder are as follows:

  • Long instances of sleep
  • Aggression that is uncommon
  • The impairment of consciousness
  • Hallucinations that come and go
  • Delusion or illusion
  • At the end of the impairment amnesia sets in.
  • Amnesia is the loss of memory of occurrences during the episode. 

Type two of alcohol-induced psychotic disorder: Alcohol withdrawal delirium

While it is a rare occurrence, alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) or delirium tremens, is a scary possible symptom of withdrawal. Thus the importance of proper treatment and monitoring. Withdrawal can be handled and managed to ease those suffering through the symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal delirium, the second form of alcohol-induced psychotic disorder is caused by withdrawal from alcohol. It is more likely to occur in instances of those that suffered alcohol use disorder for a long length of time and had been consuming large quantities daily and had abruptly stopped their drinking. 

Some factors that can lead to an even larger chance of occurrence are head injuries and the lack of the consumption of food while withdrawing. Showcasing the importance of seeking treatment within a facility to assist the detoxing process. Medically assisted detox facilities, like ours here at Coastal Detox, specialize in the detoxification of alcohol from the system. Allowing the mind and body to have a more comfortable experience and receiving the nutrients needed to avoid issues like alcohol withdrawal delirium.  

Alcohol withdrawal delirium has a large number of symptoms that can accompany it. The symptoms begin to arise around six hours after the last drink was consumed. The following is a list of some of those symptoms, some of which do not present themselves until after 12 hours after the last drink was consumed.     

  • Anxiety and/or fear
  • Chest pain
  • Irritability, agitation, and/or mood swings
  • Nightmares and/or delirium 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing
  • Nausea, stomach pain, and / or vomiting
  • Involuntary eye movement, muscle contractions, and/or seizures
  • Fever and/or sweating
  • Hallucinations

Type three of alcohol-induced psychotic disorder: Chronic or long term alcohol use disorder

The previous two types of alcohol-induced psychotic disorder can occur for those that have reached the chronic stage. However, due to the length of time and the amount of alcohol that was abused those in the previous categories are unlikely to experience the severity of the chronic stage. 

Chronic alcohol use disorder is caused by the long-term and heavy use of alcohol consumption. Due to the amount and length of use alcohol causes changes to the brain and the physical body. Thus leading to psychotic symptoms either from the changes to the chemical balance in the brain or even damage to the digestive tract. 

Unlike the other two forms of alcohol-induced disorders, chronic alcohol use disorder can produce three forms of alcohol-induced psychosis. 

  • Alcohol Hallucinosis
  • Alcoholic paranoia
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

The first condition, alcohol hallucinosis, are auditory hallucinations. This condition of alcohol-induced disorder is rare but can occur in those that had always displayed clear thought and memory. Aside from hallucinations, mood swings and delusions are likely to become present. This is not the same as delirium tremens.

Although paranoia is a common symptom of alcohol-induced disorders, alcoholic paranoia is due to brain changes caused by the heavy and long-term use of alcohol. Alcoholic paranoia is fear and intense anxiety to those struggling.

The third form is a combination of two other conditions. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency due to the lack of proper food or its digestion being supplemented by drinking. Some of the symptoms from both are confusion, coordination loss, inability to form new memories or loss of old, and hallucinations. 

How is Someone at Risk of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

As stated previously, psychosis is not a diagnosis itself. It is a symptom of other mental health conditions, some physical illnesses, or even in some cases while taking proper doses of prescription medications.

Many mental health disorders can present symptoms of psychosis. Some of those mental health disorders are schizophrenia, manic-depression or bipolar disorder, or those with a major depressive disorder. In some cases, those suffering from mental health disorders may turn to drug or alcohol abuse in hopes of self-medicating. Thus creating a more likely chance of developing a substance use disorder. 

Psychosis can also present itself due to untreated illnesses within the body. Physical illnesses like HIV or syphilis are some examples of diseases that can cause psychosis. 

Alcohol-induced psychosis is rare but can present itself to those who have experienced an acute intoxication, during withdrawal, or chronic alcoholics. Alcohol-induced psychosis can also be more common depending upon the genetics and the mental history of those suffering from alcohol use disorders.  Those who have already experienced an alcohol-induced psychosis are more likely to continue to experience it if drinking continues.

Is There a Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Psychosis at Coastal Detox?

Alcohol-induced psychosis is not a long-lasting condition. Generally symptoms of psychosis only last hours or days. Although, as stated previously, a psychotic episode is more likely to occur if someone has already experienced one previously. 

Treatment for an alcohol-induced psychotic episode begins by no longer consuming alcohol. Although the first step seems simply for those with an addiction to alcohol it is far from an easy task. The withdrawal symptoms from the refrain from alcohol can even bring about a psychotic episode. Thus the need for addiction treatment centers with a variety of treatment options.

Treatment centers, like ours here at Coastal Detox, are able to offer treatment options fit for each person. In the event of alcohol-induced psychosis, and many other conditions, there is a need for medically assisted detox. With the help of medical staff and trained personnel, recovery from alcohol use disorders and their symptoms like psychosis recovery is possible. 

While rehabilitation treatment and detox can be terrifying, we at Coastal Detox want to provide you and your loved ones with the best possible resources for a full recovery. By offering a variety of amenities for the mind, body, and soul to recover we are confident in placing you and your loved ones on the right track. Contact us today at 1-877-406-6623 and begin writing your own story of recovery. 

References:

https://store.samhsa.gov/system/files/pep19-pl-guide-3.pdf

https://www.psychologynoteshq.com/alcohol-induced-psychosis/

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/289848-overview#a6

https://www.jwatch.org/jp201010180000003/2010/10/18/look-alcohol-induced-psychosis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459134/

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/schizophrenia/link-between-psychotic-disorders-and-substance-use

https://www.alcohol.org/comorbid/psychotic-disorder/

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.