Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Alcoholic Rabbit Holes

Alcohol-induced psychotic disorder (AIPD) is not a primary organic psychotic disorder like schizophreniform or schizophrenia; it is due to the substance itself, in this case, alcohol. Psychosis is a disorder that involves hallucinations, delusions or disorganized thinking; it classically is known as having a “break with reality.” AIPD can occur during an acute intoxication, withdrawal or chronic long-term use.

AIPD is more common in individuals struggling with alcohol dependence or addiction. Once a person develops AIPD, the psychosis may last anywhere from 1-6 months. If it is secondary to alcohol withdrawal, it usually clears up within one week.

AIPD Secondary to Acute Intoxication

When a person consumes a very large amount of alcohol in one sitting, they may develop AIPD. Some of the symptoms include: aggression, hallucinations, delusions, amnesia and impaired consciousness. The condition usually ends during hospitalization when the alcohol is cleared from the body, but the person is still at risk for alcohol poisoning, which must be monitored for to prevent death.

AIPD Secondary to Withdrawal

Also known as alcohol withdrawal delirium, this occurs when a person drinks a large quantity for a long period of time and abruptly stops drinking all together. Because the body becomes physically dependent on the substance, it starts to experience side effects when alcohol is no longer present in it.

Some of the symptoms include: agitation, anxiety, chest pain, irregular heart rate, headaches, mood changes, nightmares, hallucinations, delusions, delirium, fever, seizures and involuntary muscle contractions. The symptoms progress in severity from time to last drink, starting as early as 6 hours since the last drink and even continuing 48 hours later; hallucinations and seizures are the last symptoms to appear.

AIPD Secondary to Chronic Use

After long-term heavy alcohol use, a person may develop alcohol hallucinosis, paranoia or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Alcohol hallucinosis manifests as: auditory or tactile hallucinations, delusions and rapid mood swings. It can appear in a person who has a clear thought process but has been drinking heavily for many years. Alcoholic paranoia manifests as: extreme anxiety and the fear that others are after you.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 in the body secondary to poor nutrition in heavy alcoholics. It manifests as: the inability to form new memories, confabulation, confusion and hallucinations. There is no recovery from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, as the mammillary bodies of the hippocampus have been severely damaged.

It is important to moderate your alcohol intake and never cross the invisible line leading into addiction territory. Alcohol was responsible for over 85,000 deaths per year from 2006-2010 in the United States; why lose your life over a substance? Always drink responsibly and remember that there is no substance that can ever replace natural happiness obtained from healthy relationships!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)


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