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Alcohol Psychosis Symptoms

Teen boy covers his face with his hands while experience alcohol induced psychosis  

Drinking can lead to many health issues, including mental health problems. Although rare, one serious mental health problem linked to drinking is alcohol psychosis. Learning about the symptoms of alcohol psychosis is important in its prevention.

What is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol psychosis is a severe change in mental status. It occurs when someone has been drinking or is in withdrawal from drinking. Doctors are not sure what happens in the brain to cause it.

Overall, 4% of people with a dependence on drinking will get alcohol psychosis. You are at higher risk for this problem if you become dependent on drinking while you are young. Although the condition is separate from other mental health problems, 37% of people with alcohol psychosis have another mental health problem as well.

Treatment of alcohol psychosis depends on the type of psychosis you have, as well as any other mental health problems. However, in most cases, the condition can improve if you stop drinking. If you continue to drink after getting this condition, it is very likely to recur.

Common Symptoms of Alcohol Psychosis

Alcohol psychosis is linked to a variety of symptoms. Although some symptoms may occur when someone is drunk or in withdrawal, what makes alcohol psychosis different is how severe the symptoms are. When someone has this condition, the symptoms are noticeable and often serious.

  • Anxiety or paranoia: Paranoia is when you have severe fear or distrust for other people. You may believe that people are trying to harm you even when they are not. Anxiety is when you worry more than others. Both symptoms are linked to alcohol psychosis, although anxiety is also linked to drinking in general.
  • Hallucinations: A hallucination is when you hear, see or feel something that is not there. About 95% of people with alcohol psychosis have hallucinations. Most people have more than one kind of hallucination when the condition occurs.
  • Delusions: A delusion is when you believe that something is true even when it is false. Even if someone tries to prove to you that what you think is false, you keep believing it anyway. Delusions happen in 51% of people with alcohol psychosis. Delusions can happen along with other symptoms like hallucinations.
  • Dissociation: Dissociation is when you feel disconnected from yourself. You may not even realize that it is happening. Examples of dissociation are finding yourself somewhere and not knowing how you got there or having no memory of an important event.
  • Depersonalization: Depersonalization is when you feel like the world around you is not real. You may have an out-of-body experience or feel you are separate from the world around you.
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions: Suicide and drinking are closely linked. Sadly, 22% of suicides happen when a person is drunk. People who struggle with drinking have a suicide rate up to 10 times higher than others. Additionally, 40% of people who have gotten help for their struggle with drinking have tried to kill themselves at least once.

Types of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Several different types of alcohol psychosis exist. Although they are all linked to drinking, there are major differences between them, including chances of recovery.

Acute Intoxication

When someone has been drinking, psychotic symptoms can occur. Although sometimes linked to heavy drinking, psychosis can occur even with small amounts of alcohol. Psychotic symptoms from drinking often include aggression and behavior changes that you would not have if you were not drinking.

Alcohol Withdrawal Psychosis (Delirium Tremens)

Delirium is a rapidly changing mental state where you are very confused. Delirium tremens (DTs), combines delirium with serious physical signs like fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, and fever. About 5% of people in alcohol withdrawal will develop DTs. Symptoms can start to show up 48 hours after your last drink and often happen within the first 72 hours. It is important to make sure that you go to the hospital if you have DTs because the death rate of untreated DTs is 37%.

Chronic Alcoholic Hallucinosis

This condition is a serious mental problem that occurs in about 0.7% of people who struggle with drinking. The main symptoms of the condition are hearing things that are not there, believing things that are not true and mood changes. This condition can be triggered during or right after heavy drinking. However, there is no exact amount of drinking required to trigger the problem. Studies have shown that more than 13% of people with alcoholic hallucinosis continue to suffer from it even after they quit drinking.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, or WKS, is a serious disorder linked to low thiamine. Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is an important vitamin for the brain. People who struggle with drinking often have low thiamine levels. This can cause permanent brain damage to parts of the brain including the thalamus and hypothalamus, which are important for forming memories. When you have WKS, you have permanent memory problems due to brain damage from low thiamine. You may not be able to form new memories and may have severe memory loss. You may also have hallucinations.

Dual Diagnosis

Heavy drinking and mental health problems are closely linked. Likewise, successfully treating mental health problems may increase your chances of quitting drinking. However, people with mental health problems often need extra support to stop drinking. In dual diagnosis treatment, both drinking and any underlying mental health problem are treated at the same time. Mental health problems linked with drinking include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders

Getting Help with Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Struggling with drinking can be overwhelming, especially if you have a mental health problem. Symptoms like alcohol psychosis may only make things worse. But with expert help, you can address your drinking symptoms and mental health, and you can learn how to lead a better life. 

Contact Next Generation Village to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can benefit you. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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