Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is a condition provoked by the frequent consumption of high levels of alcohol. But before we get to the main topic, let’s first learn about psychosis. According to the piece ‘Psychosis’, Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP, published by, “Psychosis is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality. It’s a […]

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is a condition provoked by the frequent consumption of high levels of alcohol. But before we get to the main topic, let’s first learn about psychosis. According to the piece ‘Psychosis’, Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP, published by, “Psychosis is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality. It’s a symptom of serious mental disorders. People who are experiencing psychosis may have either hallucinations or delusions.

Hallucinations are sensory experiences that occur within the absence of an actual stimulus. For example, a person having an auditory hallucination may hear their mother yelling at them when their mother isn’t around. Or someone having a visual hallucination may see something, like a person in front of them, who isn’t there”. [1]

The person experiencing psychosis may also have thoughts that are contrary to actual evidence. These thoughts are known as delusions. Some people with psychosis may also experience loss of motivation and social withdrawal. These experiences can be frightening. They may also cause people who are experiencing psychosis to hurt themselves or others. It’s important to see a doctor right away if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of psychosis.

What is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is part of a condition known as secondary psychosis. This type of psychosis is related to those in which symptoms manifest in association with known medical conditions or substance use behavior. The episodes may be similar in presentation to other primary psychoses, the main difference being the reason why it arises. Primary psychosis happens as a result of a primary condition such as schizophrenia. An alcohol-related psychosis can occur in a setting of either acute intoxication or alcohol withdrawal, but may also arise in chronic drinkers. For example, people with alcohol use disorders with long-term, compulsive patterns of alcohol consumption.

As stated by The American Addiction Centers, [2] studies show that people with psychotic disorders are much more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs than people who do not experience psychosis. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that among Americans aged 18-25, approximately 15.1% had a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in 2016. Of those, about 2.1% also had a co-occurring serious mental illness. In that same year, 13-51% of young people for whom treatment had been initiated for a first-episode psychosis also had a co-occurring SUD. Research also suggests that approximately 20-53% of young adults with first-episode psychosis also met the criteria for an AUD at some point in their lives. 

Once a person develops a substance-induced psychosis, the symptoms usually appear quickly and resolve within days to weeks. Though the resolution of symptoms is usually quick, continued drinking after experiencing an alcohol-induced psychotic episode could trigger the onset of longer-lasting psychotic disorders in those predisposed to such conditions.

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis can happen in various cases, not only when a person is highly intoxicated with alcohol. As we mentioned before, It also can occur with alcohol withdrawal as well as in patients with chronic alcohol use disorder.

As stated by the scientific piece ‘Alcohol-Related Psychosis’, H. Stankewicz; J. Richards; P. Salen, published by Stat Pearls, “It is a relatively rare consequence of alcohol use. However, it may be more prevalent than classically thought depending on the inclusion criteria used for diagnosis. In alcohol-related psychosis, symptoms of psychosis present during or shortly after heavy alcohol intake. Clinically, alcohol-related psychosis is similar to schizophrenia but has been found to be a unique and independent condition. It is characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, and fear”. [3]

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis can last up to 6 months in extreme cases.
Alcohol-Induced Psychosis can last up to 6 months in extreme cases.

Can Alcohol-Induced Pychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis usually appears after severe substance abuse or during withdrawal. The exact reason why alcohol-induced psychosis happens is still debated.

The most accepted theory is that long-term alcohol abuse changes the way the neural receptors in your brain work. Neural receptors help your brain recognize the reality in front of you and are often impaired when you hallucinate.

While the exact cause is still debated, experts agree that long-term alcohol abuse can lead to changes in the brain involving neural receptors. Alcohol seems to change how these receptors work and impair your ability to tell what’s real from what’s not. This may result in psychotic symptoms like hallucinations or delusions, which are characteristic of psychosis. However, in some cases, even when you don’t have psychosis it can trigger your brain to release hallucinations or delusions.

Alcohol-induced psychosis is more common among alcoholics who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

  • Disturbed thoughts or perceptions
  • Poor executive functioning
  • Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty understanding what is real
  • Behavior that is inappropriate for the situation
  • Incoherent speech
  • Delusions

Causes of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

The exact cause of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is unclear. Some studies suggest that Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is the result of alcohol’s effects on the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, namely dopamine. Others speculate that the way alcohol disrupts certain neural receptors plays a role. What is certain is that prolonged alcohol use has profound, far-reaching effects on both the brain and body. Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is thought to be a result of these effects. [4]

Alcohol-induced psychosis caused by abstinence 

According to the piece ‘Alcohol-Induced Psychosis’, Medically Reviewed By Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD, published by, “hallucinations are a possible side effect of alcohol withdrawal. In some cases, these hallucinations can escalate to a full-blown state of temporary psychosis called alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD). Individuals who stop drinking after consuming high volumes of alcohol over an extended period are at a particularly high risk of developing AWD. Long-term alcoholism can change the structure and chemical makeup of the brain, triggering temporary psychosis when alcohol is removed from the system”.

Also referred to as delirium tremens, symptoms of AWD may include any of the following:

  • Extreme sensitivity to light, sound or touch
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Increased heart and breathing rates
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Formication, or the feeling that tiny insects are crawling on or under the skin
  • Body tremors

Delirium tremens is one of the most dangerous types of side effects related to alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms can be life-threatening, so medical attention is mandatory in such cases. That’s why it is very important for a person that’s going through alcohol withdrawal to seek help and be under the supervision of a medical detox program. [4]

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis Treatment

As it happens in most conditions provoked by heavy alcohol consumption, the first thing on the list for recovering from Alcohol-Induced Psychosis is to avoid drinking alcohol. People who once experience psychosis caused by alcohol are likely to experience this condition again if they continue to drink. “Early management through various supportive measures (e.g., guidance and education about the early warning signs of psychosis, stress and anxiety management, relaxation training, employment programs, social and living skills training and family education), rehabilitation for any underlying substance use disorder and, when needed, antipsychotic medications may also be helpful for recovery”.

However, in those who struggle with alcoholism, stopping alcohol use may be difficult and even dangerous if they’ve developed a significant level of physical dependence. Left unmanaged, heavy alcohol users may experience uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal when quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Because of this, a medical detox program is essential to keeping patients as safe and comfortable as possible throughout the acute withdrawal period.

The type of detox program or level of intensity needed for effective alcohol withdrawal management will be determined by a doctor or other treatment professional. Following successful completion of detox, an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program will be beneficial to continue working toward recovery. Treatment may include group therapy, individual counseling, support group meetings, family counseling, medication treatments, behavioral therapies, and wellness activities as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for alcohol use disorders. [2]

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
Group therapy and individual counseling are effective treatments for those who suffer from Alcohol-Induced Psychosis.

Reclaim your life from Alcohol-Induced Psychosis, Alcohol Treatment Center in California

If you or someone you love is suffering from Alcohol-Induced Psychosis, we can offer the support you need. Remember, this can be a life-threatening condition if it is not professionally supervised. We Level Up works as an integrated team to provide you with evidence-based professional treatment for Alcohol-Induced Psychosis in a safe and comfortable environment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors, we can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information, our specialists know what you are going through. Have in mind that each call is private and confidential.


[1] H. Stankewicz; J. Richards; P. Salen, ‘Alcohol-Related Psychosis’ – Stat Pearls

[2] Alcoholism Treatment – We Level Up Rehab Center