Can Alcohol Cause Psychosis, and When Does It Occur?

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on July 22, 2020.

There are many symptoms that come with excessive alcohol use. In severe cases, extreme alcohol consumption can lead to delusions and hallucinations. Are alcohol and psychosis related? While there's no definitive understanding of their correlation, alcohol can result in psychosis. Take a look at the symptoms of psychosis and how they may relate to heavy drinking.

What Is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a symptom related to certain mental disorders and substance abuse. This condition affects the way the brain processes information, which alters a person's understanding of reality. Signs of psychosis include:

  • Delusions: A delusional individual might believe in a false reality. With this symptom, you might think you're under someone's control or you have special abilities.
  • Hallucinations: Hallucinations can be auditory or visual manifestations that aren't really there. This symptom can also involve feeling things that don't exist.
  • Incoherent speech: Psychosis can lead to mumbling, slurring words and making nonsensical statements.
  • Odd or irregular behavior: Someone who is undergoing psychosis might behave inappropriately for a situation or act out of character.

Does Alcohol Cause Psychosis?

In short, yes — alcohol can cause psychosis. It usually manifests in one of three different scenarios: acute intoxication, chronic alcoholic hallucinosis and alcohol withdrawal psychosis.

Acute Intoxication

In acute intoxication, psychosis can occur when an individual drinks a lot in one sitting. This does not have to be related to alcoholism, although psychosis usually only occurs in this scenario when an individual has alcohol poisoning. If someone is experiencing psychosis during acute intoxication, they need immediate medical treatment.

Chronic Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Chronic alcoholic hallucinosis is a result of frequent, heavy alcohol use. Psychosis will typically begin 12-24 hours after stopping alcohol consumption and can last for several hours to several days. This type of psychosis is rare for those who abuse alcohol and typically involves auditory hallucinations.

Alcohol Withdrawal Psychosis

Alcohol withdrawal psychosis occurs two to three days after withdrawing from severe alcohol abuse. This type of psychosis often needs treatment from a medical professional.

Signs of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Signs and symptoms can vary depending on the type of psychosis. Since hallucinations and delusions characterize psychosis, these are two symptoms to look out for. Outside of these standard reactions, other signs include:

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome: This syndrome results from the depletion of thiamine. It causes confusion, loss of muscular coordination, vision changes and memory loss.
  • Delerium Tremens: Alcohol withdrawal can lead to this condition. It involves mood changes, elevated heart rate, body tremors and a lack of coordination.
  • Alcohol poisoning: Psychosis can occur in conjunction with alcohol poisoning, although this isn't always the case. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning are aggression, long bouts of sleep and hallucinations.

Trust Diamond House Detox for Treatment of Alcohol Abuse

If you feel that you or a loved one has experienced alcohol-induced psychosis, an alcohol use disorder might be at play. At Diamond House Detox, we can help you recover from severe alcohol abuse with our medical model of treatment in our private Northern California facilities. Contact us today to learn more about our program and get started on your road to recovery.