What it’s like to have Alcohol-Induced Psychosis

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Alcohol-induced psychosis is by far the most frightening experience I’ve ever had. And I’ve been through a lot of scary stuff.

According to an article from the NCBI website, “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.”

Alcohol psychosis is a state of delusion induced by the psychical effects of alcohol.

Alcohol psychosis is relatively rare and only affects around 4% of those with alcohol dependence.

What Caused My Psychosis

When I was in my mid-twenties, my drinking had gotten worse than ever before. I had a year and a half sober inspired by legal issues but had relapsed at twenty-two. When the psychosis began, I was drinking as much as possible, and I was barely eating or sleeping.

At most, I’d sleep for a few hours before waking up and needing to drink more. Because I was drinking twenty or thirty beers a day, I had no appetite for food.

It is hypothesized that this alcohol psychosis is related to some disruption in dopamine and serotonin, but its exact causes are still unknown.

My Delusion

This whole time in my life is a little bit hard to recall, and I don’t remember exactly how it started.

I remember that I began having the reoccurring thought that people around me were conspiring to kill me.

Whoever I was around, and even when alone, I would become plagued by paranoia or fear. I was constantly worried that someone had spiked my drink. I would start to anticipate that at any moment someone might pull out a knife or gun and use it on me.

I would oscillate between fully believing these things and questioning them. I was aware that my thoughts were delusional, but I couldn’t shake them.

My internal dialogue was various forms of “I think this person is trying to kill me. Are they really going to try and kill me? I’m not sure. I think they are. But are they really going to?”

My thoughts were stuck in a delusional loop I couldn’t escape.

And because my delusion involved not trusting those around me, I didn’t tell anyone what was going on in my head. I mostly kept my thoughts to myself.

My addiction has put me in some frightening scenarios, but nothing is scarier than losing touch with reality itself.

After Getting Sober the Psychosis Dissipated

I can’t say for sure how long I was experiencing the psychosis, but it was at least a couple of weeks if not months. And it got increasingly worse.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told my family I was having problems and needed help to go to rehab.

I’d previously been to inpatient several years before, but I only did so under legal duress. This was the first time in my life where I chose to seek help of my own volition.

It took several weeks for the psychosis to disappear. Perhaps the scariest part was being sober and still having those thoughts. I remember being afraid I might be stuck that way forever.

Luckily it did abate and never returned. I remember my fellow patients saying that I had completely changed from when they first met me. I remember them throwing around terms like miraculous.

Fear Alone Isn’t Enough To Stay Sober

I’ve gotten sober out of fear many times. Unfortunately, for me, at least, fear is not enough to keep me sober. Once the thing I’m afraid of is no longer an issue, the reason for not drinking is also gone.

In this case, once I had six months sober, I was feeling pretty healthy. I started drinking again and slowly progressed back into active addiction. The next time I would get sober was after my son was born many years later out of fear of losing him due to addiction.

Addiction is Powerful

It’s crazy to think that I would ever go back to drinking after experiencing a consequence of this magnitude. But it’s not atypical for a person struggling with addiction. A characteristic of substance use disorder is that the afflicted continue to use despite the consequences. Loss of relationships, freedom, sanity, and life itself are the consequences of active addiction.

It doesn’t have to get as bad as I just described for you to have more than enough reason to quit. It can and does always get worse if a person with substance use disorder continues to use. The only way it can get better is to completely stop drinking and doing drugs.




MA in Sociology, guitarist, person in recovery

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David Pate

David Pate

MA in Sociology, guitarist, person in recovery

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