What Is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

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Alcohol-induced psychosis (AIP) is a term for several different kinds of psychotic episodes, which can result from extended alcohol abuse. It’s also referred to as alcohol-related psychosis. It’s a serious mental health concern and can be life-threatening.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol-induced psychosis can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Mood disturbances

An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder, commonly known as alcoholism, each year. Of those, roughly 4% will suffer from some form of alcohol-induced psychosis, making it a serious public health concern.

One of the causes of alcohol-induced psychosis is alcohol withdrawal. As the brain tries to adjust to the absence of alcohol, it can result in a hyperactive state, possibly leading to hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.

Alcohol-induced psychosis also seems linked to mental illness. According to a July 2022 article from the National Library of Medicine, 37% of those with alcohol-related psychosis have a diagnosed mental health disorder.

Other causes of AIP include neurotransmitter and nutritional deficiencies associated with alcoholism, which can lead to brain damage.

Alcohol-induced psychosis can be a temporary or long-lasting condition. In many cases, the psychotic symptoms will resolve once the person stops drinking and goes through detoxification. However, if the person continues to drink, the psychotic symptoms can persist and may even worsen.

As stated before, this conduction can be life-threatening, particularly if it leads to harmful behaviors or suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms, professional treatment is required.

Forms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

There are four types of alcohol-induced psychosis:

1. Delirium Tremens (DT) Psychosis

Delirium tremens (DT) psychosis occurs during alcohol withdrawal. People will experience delirium within 4 to 7 days after their last drink.

Symptoms of the condition will include:

  • Sensitivity to sensory inputs (lights, sounds, touch, etc.)
  • Disorientation
  • Severe confusion, fear, or agitation
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Persecutory delusions (the sensation of being chased)
  • High blood pressure, temperature, and pulse
  • Mood swings

Delirium tremens psychosis can be life-threatening without treatment. The mortality rate for untreated DTs is over 25%. With proper treatment, that rate is just 5%.

People with DTs need medical detox and professional support.

2. Alcohol Poisoning (Acute Intoxication) Psychosis

Alcohol poisoning psychosis is sometimes called acute intoxication. It occurs after a person consumes a substantial amount of alcohol.

Sometimes, alcohol-induced psychosis symptoms can occur while the person is intoxicated. Other times they happen afterward.

One of the main symptoms of this form of alcohol-induced psychosis is severe aggression, which can last for several hours. Oftentimes, the person won’t remember anything following the episode.

Other factors such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or psychotropic drugs (e.g., stimulants) can increase the risk of developing alcohol poisoning-induced psychosis.

3. Chronic Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Alcoholic hallucinosis is a type of alcohol-induced psychosis that occurs after years of chronic alcohol abuse.

It shares some symptoms with DTs.

For example, psychotic symptoms can include:

  • Vivid, auditory hallucinations
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Persecutory delusions (the sensation of being chased)
  • Fear
  • Mood swings

Hallucinations are often auditory with alcoholic hallucinosis. Mood disturbances are common as well.

This type of alcohol-induced psychosis usually develops 12 to 24 hours after alcohol consumption ceases. It can last hours, days, or weeks.

This extended period makes alcoholic hallucinosis seem like paranoid schizophrenia. However, no genetic connection has been shown linking the two conditions.

4. Alcohol-Induced Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Excessive long-term alcohol consumption can cause thiamine loss in the body. This leads to brain damage and can cause hallucinations and memory loss.

Wernicke encephalopathy is the acute version, and symptoms include:

  • General confusion
  • Loss of mental activity
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Tremors
  • Strange eye movements
  • Vision changes (double vision)

Korsakoff syndrome is the chronic (long-lasting) version, and symptoms include:

  • Memory loss (similar to dementia)
  • Inability to form new memories
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

These conditions may present the same symptoms as alcohol-induced psychosis. However, your mental abilities will continue to deteriorate with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

The Other Dangers of Long-term Alcohol Abuse

Long-term alcohol abuse can have profound effects on nearly every system in the body, leading to a wide range of health issues.

Here are some of the dangers associated with prolonged heavy drinking:

  • Liver Disease — Chronic heavy drinking is a common cause of alcoholic liver disease, which includes fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. These conditions can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
  • Digestive Problems — Alcohol can lead to a range of digestive problems, such as gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Both acute and chronic pancreatitis can result in severe complications.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases — Heavy drinking over a long period can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Alcohol can also lead to cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle weakens, leading to heart failure.
  • Neurological Complications — Alcohol abuse can cause a variety of neurological problems, including peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nerves), cerebellar atrophy (damage to the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination), and alcohol-related dementia.
  • Mental Health Disorders — There’s a strong link between alcohol abuse and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Alcohol is also a common factor in suicide.
  • Cancer — Alcohol abuse increases the risk of several types of cancer, including mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast cancer.
  • Immune System Dysfunction — Heavy drinking can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to diseases, including respiratory illnesses and infections.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies — Alcohol interferes with the body’s absorption of nutrients, leading to deficiencies that can cause a range of health problems. For example, thiamine deficiency can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
  • Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal — Over time, heavy drinking can lead to physical dependence on alcohol. Abruptly stopping alcohol can cause withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe and potentially life-threatening without appropriate medical management.
  • Social and Family Issues — Besides the damage to your physical health, alcohol abuse can lead you to trouble with the law, financial ruin, and estrangement from your family.

Remember, this list is not exhaustive and many other health issues may arise from long-term alcohol abuse. It’s important to seek help if you or a loved one struggles with alcohol addiction. Treatment options, including counseling, medications, and support groups, can be effective in overcoming alcohol addiction.

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Alcohol Addiction Treatment at South Coast Behavioral Health

Alcohol-induced psychosis is one of many reasons alcohol addiction needs to be treated as soon as possible. South Coast Behavioral Health can help you do that.

We offer a fully accredited medical detox program in California to help you detox safely. At our state-of-the-art detox facilities, certified professionals can provide you with comprehensive care as you rid of the alcohol from your body.

At South Coast, we take pride in offering care closely tailored to specific issues. To that end, we offer gender-specific detox programs, with medical detox for men in Irvine, CA, and medical detox for women in Huntington Beach, CA.

After you detox, we can then begin with alcohol addiction treatment. There are several different approaches to take here, including:

Residential Treatment in California

After completing medical detox, you’ll move to inpatient treatment in Orange County, California. There, you’ll receive medically-assisted treatment and dual diagnosis treatment to deal with any cravings or co-occurring mental health issues you may be battling.

We also offer residential treatment facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach for those who desire gender-specific treatment. There, patients get round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring while living at the facility full-time.

In addition to individual and group counseling and medication management, you’ll also have access to leisure activities and family support services.

Partial Hospitalization in California

Most clients start substance abuse treatment with South Coast in our residential treatment program. After completing that, many desire something that still provides structure and support, but with extra space and time to oneself. For that, we offer Partial Hospitalization in Newport Beach.

A step down from inpatient care but with more structure than conventional outpatient programs, partial hospitalization offers a good balance for those looking to ease back into normal life. Clients can receive care five to seven days a week for several hours each day, returning to their sober living homes in the evening.

This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense therapeutic interventions like group and individual therapy, skills development, and medication management as necessary.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California

For those leaving inpatient residential treatment or partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are yet another gradual step forward on the road to recovery.

With a focus on group therapy, individual counseling, and psychoeducation, clients undergoing Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Newport Beach can expect to meet three to five days a week of therapy, with each session lasting three hours. This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility.

IOPs offer participants the ability to continue their employment or academic obligations, receiving support and therapy as needed as they prepare to reenter society.

Get Started Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction symptoms but have questions about treatment, call us at 866-881-1184. Our highly qualified staff will be happy to help give you an idea of what to expect from your addiction recovery timeline, verify your insurance, and assist with any other questions.

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