Thanks to decades of public awareness campaigns, most people realize that alcohol abuse can lead to negative outcomes such as organ damage, automobile accidents, and addiction. But the mental health impact of chronic alcohol abuse is less widely understood. For example, were you aware that heavy drinking could lead to a condition called alcohol-induced psychosis?
What is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?
Alcohol-induced psychosis, which is also sometimes referred to as alcoholic psychosis or alcohol-induced psychotic disorder, is a serious mental health concern that can result from the overconsumption of alcoholic beverages.
Before we discuss what alcohol-induced psychosis is, we should take a moment to clarify what it is not. Alcohol-psychosis can begin when a person is drunk or when they are attempting to end their use of this dangerous substance. However, this condition is not the same thing as alcohol intoxication. It is also different from the delirium that can occur during severe cases of alcohol withdrawal.
Alcoholic psychosis is characterized by difficulties perceiving one’s environment and interacting with others. Common symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms will persist after the intoxicating effects of alcohol have worn off.
According to a May 2018 review in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, about 4% of people who develop alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction) will experience alcohol-psychosis. This review also included the following facts about alcoholic psychosis:
- The symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis will occur in the aftermath of heavy drinking. However, they may not become evident for up to two weeks.
- To qualify as alcohol-induced psychosis, symptoms must persist for a minimum of 48 hours.
- In some cases, episodes of alcohol-induced psychosis have lasted for up to six months.
To complement this information, the following details about alcoholic psychosis were included in a July 2022 article that was published on the website of the National Library of Medicine:
- The prevalence of alcohol-psychosis seems to be highest among working-age men, people who became addicted to alcohol at a young age, those of low socioeconomic status, and individuals who live alone.
- About 37% of people who are diagnosed with alcohol-psychosis have a co-occurring mental health disorder.
- Researchers have associated alcoholic psychosis with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if a person is intoxicated or if they have developed alcoholic psychosis. As noted in the previous section, the symptoms and effects of alcohol psychosis will last much longer than typical alcohol intoxication. They will also be much more severe than the disorientation and reduced inhibitions that are usually associated with alcohol intoxication.
The following are possible signs and symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis or alcoholic psychosis:
- Seeing objects or people that aren’t there (visual hallucinations)
- Hearing voices or other sounds that do not exist (auditory hallucinations)
- Rigidly adhering to beliefs that have no basis in reality (delusions)
- Speaking incoherently or being otherwise unable to clearly express one’s thoughts
- Outbursts of violence or aggression
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
The symptoms of alcohol psychosis can also be similar to what people who have schizophrenia experience. However, while the commonalities between these conditions can complicate the effort of professionals to establish an accurate diagnosis, they are separate and distinct concerns.
Dangers of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
The following are examples of the potential dangers of untreated alcohol-induced psychosis:
- Physical injuries due to confusion, disorientation, or aggressive behaviors
- Being abused or otherwise victimized
- Arrest and incarceration due to reckless or dangerous behaviors
- Job loss
- Conflicts with friends and family members
- Worsening of co-occurring mental illnesses
- Social isolation
Anyone who exhibits the signs and symptoms of alcoholic psychosis needs immediate professional attention. With proper care, a person can recover from this condition and avoid (or begin to heal from) the many dangers of alcohol psychosis.
What to Do if You or a Loved One Experience Alcoholic Psychosis
Due to the nature of the symptoms that are associated with alcoholic psychosis, people who are currently experiencing this condition may have a diminished capacity for seeking assistance. But if someone that you care about has developed alcohol-psychosis, you can play a vital role in getting them the help they need.
Treating alcoholic psychosis may involve both prescription medication and therapy. Antipsychotic medications are often incorporated into treatment for this condition. These medications can ease some of the more severe symptoms that a person is experiencing. This can increase their ability to fully engage with the therapeutic component of their care.
Since alcohol-induced psychosis is closely associated with alcoholism, comprehensive treatment should also focus on preparing the person for an alcohol-free future. Temporary sobriety is essential to eradicate the symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis. But if the person resumes drinking once they have completed treatment, they put themselves in danger for developing this condition again.
Begin Treatment for Alcohol Addiction in Palm Springs, CA
Phoenix Rising is a premier provider of comprehensive treatment services for adults whose lives have been disrupted by alcohol addiction. You don’t have to wait until you have developed alcohol-induced psychosis or otherwise “hit bottom” before you get the help you need. At our treatment center in Palm Springs, California, you can end your alcohol abuse and establish a solid foundation for successful, long-term recovery. When you’re ready to get started, the Phoenix Rising team is here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.