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Alcohol-Related Psychosis- Stages, Symptoms, and Management

Published on Nov 22, 2022   -  4 min read


Alcohol has often been proven to cause a state of delirium and confusion. This state, in the medical term, is referred to as alcohol-related psychosis.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a state of mind wherein an individual loses the ability to process information in a desired or productive way. It is a condition or a complication that can be related due to the overuse of substances (particularly drugs and alcohol), trauma or external injury affecting the brain, concentrated exposure to stressful situations, or due to some form of mental illness. According to medical professionals, psychosis is a symptom or a complication, not an illness.

Alcohol-related psychosis is a condition of an unsound mind that can occur due to overconsumption of alcohol. Individuals suffering tends to remain in a delusional state of mind. Individuals affected by this condition have several bouts or episodes of unpleasant visions and figments of imagination. They experience psychosis at various stages of alcohol consumption, or psychosis could appear even when they are at the quitting stage or in the withdrawal state.

Ordinarily, the symptoms of psychosis subside when the person limits their drinking habit to their normal or desired level or they completely stop and quit alcohol. Alcohol-related psychosis has been observed to be life-threatening and a fatal condition for alcoholics (or occasional alcohol drinkers). However, the root cause of the issue is yet to be known. As per some experts, it is widely believed that overconsumption of alcohol can lead to damage to some brain cells, namely neurotransmitters, which are solely responsible for the creation of dopamine. Many believe in some cases; alcohol can cause harm to neurotransmitter receptors.

There are identifying or early signs of alcohol-related psychosis, which are discussed below. Medicinal therapy and other therapies have been advised at present to fight against chronic symptoms, which are fatal and need attention too.

Typically, alcohol-related psychosis is observed in three stages: acute intoxication (or over-intoxication), chronic alcohol hallucinosis (or hallucinations during extreme alcohol consumption over a long period of time), and alcohol withdrawal psychosis (or while quitting alcohol).

  • Acute Intoxication: Overconsumption of alcohol may lead to psychosis or a disability to control one’s cognitive process. This case is observed where an individual consumes a large quantity of alcohol in a single setting. This can lead to hallucinations or delusional behavior in the person. Such types of cases should be properly dealt with by the medical practitioner. In case the condition goes unnoticed or untreated, it may lead to unwanted circumstances such as brain damage, loss of control over one’s senses, or even fatality in some cases.

  • Alcohol Withdrawal Psychosis: This type of psychosis is related to when a chronic alcohol abuser tries to quit alcohol. This sudden stop drinking (alcohol) may lead the individual into a full-fledged psychotic condition known as alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD). An abrupt halt in the consumption of alcohol after a long, stretched period of time can put a person at a high risk of contracting the symptoms of AWD (such as aggression, irritability, confusion, delusions, insomnia, seizures, and shallow breathing).

The golden symptoms observed in an individual suffering from chronic alcohol consumption or alcohol withdrawal state are hallucinations, disorientation, and delusional behavior. Another way to differentiate between alcohol-related psychosis and abuse is by looking at the individual’s family background. If the family of the alcohol abuser has a prolonged history of alcohol consumption simultaneously with no psychotic behavior, then it is safe to conclude that the person suffering from hallucinations, delusions, and confusion is suffering from alcohol-related psychosis.

Some commonly observed signs of psychosis related to alcohol are:

1. Several bouts of hallucinations.

2. Discomfort in interacting and attending a social gathering.

3. Loneliness.

4. Suicidal tendencies and behaviors.

5. Delusional behavior.

6. Poor personal hygiene.

7. Anxiety while quitting alcohol.

8. Mental health illnesses.

9. Difficulty in interaction with family and friends.

10. Depression.

11. Episodes of panic attacks.

12. Anxiety attacks.

Even with early detection of alcohol-related psychosis, medical help is necessary. First, the medical practitioner should evaluate the patient's condition and the type of psychosis they are experiencing. This can be done through proper medical counseling. The first step to managing alcohol-related psychosis is to stop alcohol consumption. However, this may not be a simple step. There are several techniques suggested to cure or simplify alcohol cessation. The treatment plan recommended includes the following components:

  • Medical Help: Medical professionals treat each case according to its merit and severity. In some cases, patients need to be administered certain types of drugs, such as neuroleptics or antipsychotics, like Haloperidol and Ziprasidone. Benzodiazepines can also be another option to treat a person having alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For patients affected with alcohol withdrawal delirium, quitting alcohol is the first step towards recovery.

  • Psychotherapy: With patients experiencing delirium and psychosis, the adequate step toward helping is to talk about their fears and their experiences. Psychotherapy has proven to be effective as it motivates an individual to stay away from alcohol, fight their addiction, and in case of failure to do so, how to cope with their relapses. An individual already suffering from psychosis will find it hard to fight feelings of relapse, and talking to someone might help; hence psychotherapy in conjunction with medical help has been proven to help alcohol-related psychosis.

  • Support Groups: The Government of India also runs several detox centers to help the affected individuals to assist their gradual independence from alcohol. Several support groups are also established, which also contribute towards withdrawal to help these individuals to come out of this vicious cycle of alcohol consumption.


Alcohol-related psychosis is a commonly observed condition. On average, half of alcoholics face issues concerning their mental health. Depending on the severity of the condition, it is noted. An alcoholic may face delirium and hallucination and may consider it a common side effect due to alcohol. Hence, educating an individual on these conditions is essential.

Delirium and hallucination can be due to many reasons, but if an individual experiences these psychotic symptoms on a regularity, then they must report to a healthcare facility and should receive the help they deserve.

While talking about psychosis induced by alcohol or related to alcohol consumption, we should motivate an alcoholic to ask for help, but at the same time, we must also teach the general population not to discriminate against those facing mental health issues. Help should be given to whoever is asking for it and needs it.


Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Psychosis?

Alcohol psychosis occurs due to the intoxication of alcohol that affects the ability of an individual to process information. Alcohol psychosis causes symptoms such as hallucinations, delusional behavior, fear of loneliness, anxiety attacks, depression, mental health illness, and suicidal tendencies.


Does Alcohol Cause Psychosis?

Psychosis occurs with acute intoxication of alcohol. It can also occur due to chronic alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal. In addition, alcohol-related psychosis is often called hallucinosis.


How Long Does Alcohol-related Psychosis Last?

Alcohol-related psychosis usually lasts for a few days, and in rare cases, it may last even for a longer duration of time. It can last for days, a few weeks, or even months. The symptoms caused by acute intoxication of alcohol subside once the alcohol content is completely removed from the body.


Can We Reverse Alcohol-induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis can get reversed with treatment. Therefore, people experiencing such symptoms need to stop drinking alcohol and follow treatment strictly to get rid of alcohol psychosis and recover completely.


How Common Is Alcohol Psychosis?

Alcohol psychosis is a rare condition that occurs in almost 3 % of people involved in acute alcoholism due to withdrawals or acute intoxication. In addition, almost 10 % of people with chronic alcoholism experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including psychosis.


Can a Person Recover From Psychosis?

A person can recover from psychosis with timely medical intervention. Studies show that 20 % of people never experience any symptoms later in life after proper treatment. Also, about 50 % of people with more than one episode of psychosis can live everyday lives.


What Are the Various Types of Psychosis?

Various types of psychosis are
- Delusions.
- Hallucinations.
- Disorganized thinking and speech.


What Are the Triggers For Psychosis?

Triggers for psychosis include
- Abuse and trauma.
- Smoking.
- Alcohol.
- Physical injury or illness.
- Recreational drugs.


How Does a Person Act With Psychosis?

A person with psychosis acts disturbed and confused, has poor personal hygiene, has constant and rapid speech, disturbed speech, and feels difficulty interacting with family and friends. Person experiences episodes of panic and anxiety attacks.


Is Psychosis a Severe Mental Illness?

Psychosis is a severe mental health illness that leads to abnormal perception and thinking in a person. Psychosis also causes hallucinations and delusions; thus, a person finds it difficult to live in reality and disconnects from reality by perceiving things differently.


Does Psychosis Cause Damage to the Brain?

Psychosis can cause neurotoxicity and thus leads to structural damage to the brain if left untreated. It may also cause cognitive problems and various other changes in the brain.


What Does a Person With Psychosis See?

A person with psychosis suffers from hallucinations. They hear and see things that others do not hear or see. Also, they start believing in unreal things and suffer from delusions.


How Can We Get Someone Out of Psychosis?

A person can be treated with antipsychotic medications like Ziprasidone and Haloperidol. In addition, social support and psychological therapies are also helpful in treating a person who has psychosis.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
22 Nov 2022  -  4 min read




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