Alcoholic hallucinosis: symptoms, features, causes and treatment

The chronic consumption of certain addictive substances, or the suspension of such consumption, can lead to various mental disorders or mental disorders.. These are organic disorders, which also appear due to organic diseases or the consumption of certain drugs or medications.

In this article we will learn about an organic disorder caused by suspension of alcohol consumption in alcoholic patients (caused by substance abstinence syndrome). It’s an alcoholic hallucinosis. We will know what it consists of, its symptoms, its characteristics (how it manifests itself, how long it lasts …), its causes and its treatment.

    Alcoholic hallucinosis: what does it consist of?

    Alcoholic hallucinosis is an organic disorder that produces psychotic symptoms and is caused by sudden cessation or reduction in alcohol consumption in alcoholic patients who used to drink large amounts of alcohol, and for a long time. long period. In other words, it is a typical disorder of withdrawal syndrome in alcoholics (although it can also appear due to alcohol poisoning).

    This type of disorder is considered an acute alcohol-induced disorder and is actually part of another more general disorder, the so-called uncomplicated (alcohol) withdrawal syndrome. This syndrome includes, in addition to alcoholic hallucinosis, other symptoms, such as: convulsions, delirium, professional delirium and organic hallucinosis (Different from the one we are discussing in this article).


    The typical symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis are hallucinations, which are usually persistent, auditory and vivid.. These usually appear within 48 hours of the patient’s last sip of alcohol.

    Let’s see what they are exactly below.

    1. Hallucinations

    The hallucinations of alcoholic hallucinosis are threatening in nature. They appear in the first few moments of the disorder (remember: this type of disorder usually appears within 48 hours of stopping alcohol consumption). These hallucinations are usually auditory, formed by basic or elementary sounds (i.e. poorly designed)..

    These sounds include buzzing, crackling, crackling, etc., and the patient reports them to himself. However, as alcoholic hallucinosis progresses, the sounds can become more and more elaborate and complex, for example, resulting in threatening words or phrases.

    In alcoholic hallucinations, visual hallucinations may also appear, although they are less common than auditory hallucinations.

    But what is the content of the hallucinations of this disorder? It is usually a living content that greatly worries the patient, causing high levels of anxiety and distress.

    2. Delirium

    On the other hand, depending on the content of hallucinations caused by alcoholic hallucinosis, the patient can develop delusional interpretations or delusions proper, in order to “justify” or “understand” the presence or the logic of the hallucinations.

    These delusions sometimes result in intense persecution as well as influential ideas. The patient may react to it by running away or by assaulting others, for example. This often requires hospitalization of the patient to contain – and compensate – because he is in a psychotic crisis.

    Indeed, it can happen that the patient tries to hurt himself (self-aggression) or another (heteroagression), or even tries to commit suicide, following hallucinations and previous illusions, which he interprets and feels like they are real. .

    3. Other symptoms: anxiety and irritability

    There are two other typical symptoms that accompany hallucinations in alcoholic hallucinosis: it’s anxiety and irritability. Thus, the patient can be irritable and irritable, upset by anything, and even easily display aggressive behavior.

    To this is added the aforementioned anxiety, produced above all by the threatening hallucinations and by the uncertainty and worry that they generate.

    Another characteristic of alcoholic hallucinosis is that there is no clouding of the patient’s consciousness; that is, it keeps the state of consciousness intact. In addition, there is no loss or decrease in their intellectual capacity.


    Regarding the general characteristics of alcoholic hallucinosis, this usually appears around the age of 40. However, it can also appear earlier, at age 20 or 30.

    In contrast, patients with alcoholic hallucinosis usually have a history of alcohol consumption of at least 10 years. In other words, there is a previous excessive consumption of the substance, of a long duration.


    Regarding its onset, it is usually sudden (abrupt). Typical symptoms of the early stages of alcoholic hallucinosis are: irritability, anxiety, and threatening auditory hallucinations.


    Alcoholic hallucinosis usually lasts between days and weeks (acute forms of the disorder), depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and other variables, as we will see in the section on causes. When this lasts several months, we talk about subacute training. This disorder can become chronic.

    the causes

    As we have seen, alcoholic hallucinosis is caused by a suspension of alcohol consumption. In other words, it is a disorder induced by a substance, in particular alcohol (its reduction or its stopping). It is a characteristic symptom of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

    Alcoholic hallucinosis can last for days or even weeks, and although it starts as an acute disorder, it can become chronic; it all depends on the usual dose taken by the alcoholic patient, his history of drug addiction, his personal and genetic characteristics, etc.


    Regarding the treatment of alcoholic hallucinosis, when it occurs, it is recommended to hospitalize the patient so that he can stabilize himself. It will also be important to treat the underlying addiction (alcoholism)., Thanks to specific drugs that promote the detoxification of the patient, to avoid the reappearance of alcoholic hallucinosis.

    While treatment is important, so is prevention of this disorder. Some preventive guidelines include taking alcoholic beverages only in small doses and accompanied by food. Ideally, foods rich in protein should be taken, as they delay the absorption of alcohol. This will help the alcohol not to irritate both the central nervous system and therefore health.

    On the other hand, remission of alcoholic hallucinosis occurs with long-term abstinence from alcohol. If the underlying alcohol dependence is not properly treated and is the cause of this disorder, relapses (relapses) can occur.

    In this sense, complications can arise, and it is known that if hallucinosis lasts up to 6 months or more in time, it can lead to organic dementia, delirium tremens or even paranoid-type schizophrenic disorder.

    bibliographical references

    • Berrios, G. Organic disorders in psychiatry. In Fuentenebro, F., Vázquez, C. (1990). Medical psychology, psychopathology and psychiatry. Inter-American McGraw-Hill, Madrid.

    • Grau, A. Exogenous or organic disorders. In Vallejo, J. (1991). Introduction to psychopathology and psychiatry. 3rd edition. Masson-Salvat, Madrid.

    • Ruiz, Mario Martinez; Ros, Antonio Aguilar; Valladolid, Gabriel Rubio (2002-04). Addiction Handbook for Nursing. Diaz de Santos editions.

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