Alcohol Induced Psychosis -What You Need to Know?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : August 09, 
| 4 Sources

What happens if you have alcohol induced psychosis?

Alcohol induced psychosis, or alcohol-induced psychotic disorder (AIPD) is a mental illness that can develop with heavy drinking. Symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, which may last for days or weeks after the person stops drinking. Alcohol-induced psychosis typically happens in people who have an underlying vulnerability to schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis.

The risk of developing AIPD increases as the amount of alcohol consumed increases; but not everyone who drinks heavily will experience it. Research has shown that approximately 4% of individuals who are physically dependent on alcohol experience AIPD. This is compared to a finding of 0.4% of those not dependent on alcohol who have similar experiences.

What is Alcohol Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol-induced psychosis (AIP), sometimes called alcohol-related psychotic disorder, is a mental disorder that can occur in some people when they drink heavily. The risk of developing AIP increases with the level of alcohol use.

However, this does not mean everyone who drinks heavily will develop it. Heavy drinking may cause short-lived psychotic symptoms including hallucinations and delusions which may be mistaken for symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

It usually occurs when a person has an underlying vulnerability to becoming psychotic, like having a family history of psychiatric problems, or using drugs as well as alcohol or withdrawing from them.

People who have gone through withdrawal from alcohol, sedatives such as tranquilizers, cocaine, or amphetamines are more likely to develop alcohol-induced psychosis.

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Induced Psychosis?

Excessive alcohol use may cause a short-lived period of psychotic symptoms which resemble schizophrenia or mania. Symptoms that occur during an episode of AIPD include delusions, hallucinations, confusion, and disorganized thinking.

These types of psychotic episodes tend be relatively short in duration and last for a few days after the person stops drinking, but some people can develop longer term problems which need treatment. Some people with AIPD go on to develop a serious mental illness like schizophrenia.

What is the Cause of Alcohol Induced Psychosis?

Alcohol Induced Psychosis is very common, occurring in most people who have been treated for alcoholism at some point in their lives. The exact cause of AIPD is unknown, but there are several factors that increase your risk of developing it: You may be more likely to develop alcohol induced psychosis if you drink high amounts over a long period or frequently binge drink.

It's also certain that genes play a role and people with a family history of psychotic disorders are more vulnerable to developing the disorder when they consume large amounts of alcohol. Stress and other environmental factors have also been linked to AIPD.

AIPD typically occurs after heavy use, but sometimes it can happen after a period of abstinence. Excessive use may trigger an underlying vulnerability to psychosis, like schizophrenia and other types of serious mental illness.

AIPD may also occur in people with bipolar disorder, or who have a family history of this type of condition.

alcohol induced psychosisPhoto by Mitchell Hollander

Types of Hallucinations and Delusions from Alcohol Intoxication

Auditory hallucinations - these are the most common type of hallucination experienced by people with AIPD. They often hear voices talking to them, repeating or commenting on their thoughts and actions. The comments can be either positive or negative in nature.

Delusions - a delusion is a misconception of reality that remains unshakable even when it has been proven wrong. For example, someone who believes they have special powers like mind reading might not admit that this belief is illogical, even after being told they are wrong.

Alcohol induced psychosis may cause paranoid delusions, where a person believes others want to hurt them (for example as part of a conspiracy or witchcraft). A person might also have delusions of grandeur, believing they are god like figures or famous celebrities.

Some people with alcohol induced psychotic symptoms can develop unusual beliefs called 'thought disorder.' For example, thinking that thoughts going through their head are broadcast to other people in the room (known as thought echo).

How to Get Help for Alcohol Related Problems

Alcohol related problems are more common than most people would like to think. Approximately 14.1 million adults, 18 and older, struggle with alcoholism. Fortunately, you don't need to confront your problem head on alone because there is help available for you or a loved one in need of assistance.

In the first instance you should seek advice from your family GP and they can refer you to specialized medical services if appropriate.

If this route proves unsuccessful or unsustainable you could always contact Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) who have helped millions worldwide recover from a life dominated by alcohol abuse and addiction. They operate through local meetings in most major cities, where no-one will judge or condemn you but instead support and guide you back to a path of sobriety.

Preventing Future Relapses 

Once an alcoholic or addict has recovered, they are still at a high risk of relapse. This is a particularly difficult situation, because it can be difficult to prevent against. However, there are strategies which you could adopt to help limit the chances of this happening in future:

Identify your triggers - if you know what things make you more likely to lapse back into old drinking habits you can take steps to avoid them for example by avoiding certain friends or places.

Set a time frame - decide on how long before you have another drink and keep true to that promise no matter what happens. Even if life gets tough and the temptation becomes too much just remember why you made this decision in the first place and stick with it until your pre-determined period is over.

Avoid negative influences - people and social situations that make you feel like drinking should be kept at a minimum. It is important to resist peer pressure and if your friends are trying to drag you into a pub or drinking session stay strong and don't go with them until you no longer feel this way.

Churches are often open on Sundays for those who want a more spiritual outlet and AA meetings occur daily in most townships around the world. If they don't exist there just yet, consider starting one yourself.

When Is It Safe to Drink Again After an Episode of Alcohol Induced Psychosis?

The underlying problem here is addiction. If you want to avoid a repeat episode of alcohol induced psychotic symptoms, then first and foremost you need to overcome your physical dependency on alcohol. Then, once sobriety has been achieved it would probably be wise to adopt some strategies for preventing future relapses:

  •    Avoid stressful situations - especially in the early stages of recovery when you might find yourself at your most vulnerable.
  •    Set yourself goals - something concrete like losing weight or finding a job will help keep your mind off drinking and get you back into a positive frame of mind.
  •    Maintain old interests - 'getting back to normal' after an episode of alcohol induced psychosis can be difficult for many people, but by focusing on things that were important before the illness hit it can help you to avoid becoming isolated and depressed.
  •    Cut down on caffeine - some people find that drinking coffee or other beverages containing caffeine alongside alcohol triggers psychotic episodes. This is thought to be because the stimulant effect of these drinks exacerbates any feelings of paranoia or anxiety which would have been brought on by the alcohol alone.

Final Word 

Alcohol induced psychosis is a rare but serious condition that can be life-threatening. If you or someone close to you has symptoms of alcohol related problems, it's important not to ignore them and get help right away.

We're here for both the person suffering from alcoholism and their family members who are struggling in helping that person recover. You don't have to go through this alone! Let us know how we can help.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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