About Alcohol Induced Psychosis
Psychosis is typically associated with acute mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. But this condition can also be brought on by excessive substance abuse. For example, one of the many potential negative effects of chronic heavy drinking is the development of alcohol-induced psychosis.
What is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?
Alcohol-induced psychosis can be referred to by several other terms, including alcohol-induced psychotic disorder, alcohol-related psychosis, alcohol hallucinosis, and alcohol psychosis. For the purpose of consistency, we will refer to this condition as either alcohol-induced psychosis or alcohol psychosis throughout this post.
By any name, alcohol-induced psychosis is a disruption in a person’s ability to accurately perceive and effectively interact with their environment. It is characterized by extreme disorientation, hallucinations, and delusions.
A StatPearls article by a team of experts from St. Luke’s University reported that about 4% of people with alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) will develop alcohol-induced psychosis.
It is important to understand that alcohol-induced psychosis is different from (and more serious than) extreme drunkenness. A person who develops this condition can continue to experience signs and symptoms of psychosis for weeks after they have stopped drinking.
What Causes Alcohol Psychosis?
Alcohol-induced psychosis can result from extreme alcohol intoxication or occur during withdrawal. It is most common among people who have become addicted to alcohol.
Experts don’t fully understand exactly why some people develop alcohol-induced psychosis while most others don’t – but they believe it is related to disruptions in the body’s ability to produce and disseminate certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. Abnormalities in various areas of the brain may also play a role.
According to the article that we cited in the previous section, the following factors can increase a person’s risk of alcohol-induced psychosis:
- Becoming addicted to alcohol at a young age
- Having low socioeconomic status
- Being unemployed or living on a pension
- Living alone
Various experts have estimated that as many as 20%-30% of people who experience alcohol-related psychosis will later develop schizophrenia or a similar disorder.
Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
As we noted earlier, alcohol-induced psychosis involves disorientation, hallucinations, and delusions. It can also cause a person to experience intense fear, to the point of paranoia.
This is what it can feel like to have hallucinations as a result of alcohol psychosis:
- Hearing music, voices, or other sounds that don’t actually exist
- Seeing people, objects, or light patterns that no one else can see
- Feeling that bugs are crawling over or underneath your skin
Here are a few examples of delusional thinking that can result from alcohol psychosis:
- Becoming convinced that your spouse or partner is cheating on you, even though there is no credible reason to think this
- Claiming that your thoughts and/or behaviors are being controlled by some external force
- Expressing suspicion that you are being spied on, persecuted, or otherwise harassed
Understandably, these symptoms can undermine a person’s ability to work, go to school, or maintain healthy relationships.
The delusions and paranoia that are characteristic of this condition can also prompt people to behave impulsively and aggressively. This can cause them to harm themselves or others. This, in turn, can lead to serious medical and legal problems.
Treatment Options for Alcohol Psychosis
If someone has developed alcohol-induced psychosis due to heavy drinking, the most important first step in treating this condition is helping the individual quit drinking. If they develop alcohol psychosis during withdrawal, focused interventions may be needed to keep them safe.
In either case, the proper response to alcohol-induced psychosis should involve professional care from a reputable treatment provider. Depending on the needs of each patient, they may need to spend time in one or more of the following programs:
Treatment in each of these programs may include both medication and therapy.
The medical component of treatment for alcohol-induced psychosis may involve benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and sedatives. There is no single psychopharmacological approach that works best for every person. It can take a bit of time to identify the correct medication.
Sustained sobriety is essential to prevent a recurrence of alcohol-induced psychosis. This is why the therapeutic part of treatment is so important. Therapy can help people develop the skills they need to establish and maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Addiction Therapy Options
As with medication, the most effective types of therapy can vary considerably from one person to the next. In addition to the severity of the person’s struggles with alcohol abuse, the presence of co-occurring mental health concerns can also influence which therapeutic services may be most helpful.
Beneficial therapy options for someone with alcohol use disorder can include:
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Individual, group, and family therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
- Other trauma-focused therapies
- Holistic therapy
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
Remember: There is no single right way to treat someone who has been impacted by alcoholism, alcohol-induced psychosis, and co-occurring mental health conditions. What is most important is finding a treatment provider that will assess the full scope of the patient’s needs, then use the information from that assessment to develop a truly customized treatment plan.
Contact Our Alcohol Rehab at Sanctuary Treatment Center in Los Angeles, California
If someone in your life has developed alcohol-induced psychosis or is struggling with other effects of alcohol addiction, Sanctuary Treatment Center is here to help. At our center, adults who are struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses receive customized services from a team of highly skilled and extremely dedicated professionals. Working together, we can help your loved one end their alcohol abuse, overcome the impact of alcohol psychosis, and build a foundation for long-term recovery.
To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.