What is Alcohol-Induced Psychosis?
Alcohol, being a neurotoxin that has great impact on people’s brains in an intricate manner due to continued exposure and repeated withdrawal, can cause serious and life-threatening health concerns. Alcoholism is associated with medical, neurological, and psychosocial complications.
One of these complications involves Alcohol-Induced Psychosis, a secondary psychosis in which contact with reality is compromised by delusions and hallucinations that occur during alcohol-related conditions such as acute intoxication, withdrawal, alcohol idiosyncratic intoxication, or when there is as major reduction of alcohol consumption.
Affecting roughly 3% of alcohol dependents, Alcohol-Induced Psychosis indicates an acute stage of alcohol withdrawal characterized by seizures and other physiological concerns. It can signify an extreme amount of alcohol that can be manifested by high alcohol blood content level or poisoning. Without proper treatment, alcoholism can endanger one’s life. Most intoxication-related deaths, in fact, are usually caused by alcohol poisoning or overdose.
One type of alcohol psychosis is the unusual condition called idiosyncratic intoxication that occurs when a small amount of alcohol causes severe reactions and intoxication. This is characterized by aggression, impaired consciousness, prolonged sleep, transient hallucinations, illusions, and delusions. These symptoms occur rapidly, usually in elderly people, and are followed by amnesia.
Alcohol-Induced Psychosis can be differentiated from schizophrenia by clinical method which can be difficult. It is generally acknowledged that alcohol-induced psychosis discontinues with abstinence unlike schizophrenia. However, it can become more confusing when persistent psychosis progresses. Comorbid psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder may also exist.
There are studies that pointed out the differences between schizophrenia and Alcohol-Induced Psychosis. People who suffer from Alcohol-induced Psychosis usually come from lower educational levels, have later onset of psychosis, and have higher levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms. Patients with Alcohol-Induced Psychosis also demonstrate fewer negative and disorganized symptoms, have better insight and judgement and less functional impairment.
Aside from alcohol, other types of substances can bring about psychotic symptoms. Generally, susceptibility to substance-induced psychosis is said to be on a case-to-case basis and depends on how vulnerable a person is. Currently, there are no ways of knowing whether a person will have substance-induced psychosis. However, people who have mental illness history are found to be more vulnerable to having psychotic symptoms while using substances.
Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), the disorder should only be diagnosed when the psychotic symptoms observed are above and beyond what would be anticipated during intoxication or withdrawal, and when the they are found to be extreme.
DSMIV-TR listed the criteria needed for the diagnosis of substance-induced psychotic disorder.
Presence of prominent hallucinations or delusions
Hallucinations and/or delusions develop during, or within one month of, intoxication or withdrawal from a substance or medication known to cause psychotic symptoms.
Psychotic symptoms are not actually part of another psychotic disorder (such as schizophrenia , schizophreniform disorder , schizoaffective disorder ) that is not substance-induced. For instance, if the psychotic symptoms began prior to substance or medication use, then another psychotic disorder is likely.
Psychotic symptoms do not only occur during delirium.
Causes of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
Substance-induced psychosis is directly caused by the effects of substances such as alcohol, medication, and toxins. Specifically, alcohol-induced psychosis is caused by extreme intake of alcohol. Psychotic symptoms can also result from intoxication on and withdrawal from amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, phencyclidine and related substances, sedatives, hypnotics, anxiolytics, and other substances.
Psychotic symptoms and promptness of the onset depend on the type of substance. Psychotic symptoms caused by alcohol usually appear only after days or weeks of extreme amount of consumption, while it takes only a few minutes for the symptoms of other substance-induced psychosis to manifest. Auditory, visual and tactile hallucinations are common in alcohol-induced psychotic disorder, while persecutory delusion and tactile hallucinations are common in both cocaine-induced and amphetamine-induced psychosis.
Treatment of Alcohol-Induced Psychosis
Alcohol-induced psychosis is a condition that can be drawn off with cessation of alcohol consumption. The disorder is self-limiting and most patients experience discontinuance of psychotic symptoms after several weeks of abstinence. Although, chronic psychosis may develop with continued alcohol consumption, this may require long-term treatment with antipsychotic medication.
The cure for this condition concentrates on the effect of the treatment on the individual’s body. Immediate medical help may be needed especially if the cause is alcohol intoxication. For patients who reached the state of mind to harm other people, high-potency antipsychotic drugs are given.
For other substance-induced psychotic disorders, the treatment is similar to the cure for primary psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. Appropriate treatments such as psychiatric hospitalization and antipsychotic medication are advised.