(See also Drug Use and Abuse Overview of Substance-Related Disorders Medications and other substances, whether used for legitimate medical purposes, as a habit (for example, caffeine), or recreationally, are an integral part of everyday life for many people ... read more .)
Korsakoff psychosis occurs in 80% of people with untreated Wernicke encephalopathy Wernicke Encephalopathy Wernicke encephalopathy is a brain disorder that causes confusion, eye problems, and loss of balance and results from thiamin deficiency. Wernicke encephalopathy is caused by a severe deficiency... read more , which is a brain disorder caused by a type of vitamin deficiency that can occur in people who drink large amounts of alcohol Alcohol Use Alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant (it slows down brain and nervous system functioning). Consuming large amounts rapidly or regularly can cause health problems, including organ damage, coma,... read more for a long time. Korsakoff psychosis is sometimes triggered by a severe bout of delirium tremens Withdrawal symptoms Alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant (it slows down brain and nervous system functioning). Consuming large amounts rapidly or regularly can cause health problems, including organ damage, coma,... read more , which is a form of alcohol withdrawal, whether a typical attack of Wernicke encephalopathy occurs prior or not. Other causes include head injuries, stroke Overview of Stroke A stroke occurs when an artery to the brain becomes blocked or ruptures, resulting in death of an area of brain tissue due to loss of its blood supply (cerebral infarction). Symptoms occur suddenly... read more , bleeding within the brain, and certain brain tumors (rarely).
Symptoms of Korsakoff Psychosis
People with Korsakoff psychosis lose their memory for recent events. Memory of remote events is less affected. Memory can be so poor that people often make up stories, sometimes very convincingly, to try to cover up the inability to remember (called confabulation). They lose all sense of time. People become confused and apathetic and may not respond to events, even frightening ones. People also have all the symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy, including profound ataxia (wide-based stumbling gait) and difficulty controlling eye movements.
Diagnosis of Korsakoff Psychosis
History of a condition known to cause Korsakoff psychosis, such as severe chronic alcohol use disorder
Doctors base a Korsakoff psychosis diagnosis on symptoms, particularly confabulation, in people with conditions that can cause Korsakoff psychosis, such as severe chronic alcohol use disorder Alcohol Use Alcohol (ethanol) is a depressant (it slows down brain and nervous system functioning). Consuming large amounts rapidly or regularly can cause health problems, including organ damage, coma,... read more . Doctors need to rule out other causes of the symptoms, such as infection.
Treatment of Korsakoff Psychosis
Treatment for Korsakoff psychosis consists of the vitamin thiamin and hydration. Unfortunately, despite treatment, reversal of symptoms is poor and recovery is unlikely.
The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
Alcoholics Anonymous: International fellowship of people with a drinking problem that pioneered the 12-step approach to help its members overcome their addiction to alcohol and help others to do the same.
LifeRing: Support for people with drug and alcohol use problems by facilitating sharing of practical experiences and sobriety support as an alternative to traditional 12-step programs.
Phoenix House: Helps people combat addiction, regardless of the substance that caused it, through a 12-step program similar to that used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Samaritan Daytop Village: A New York-based agency that helps various populations struggling with addictions, including military veterans, mothers and babies, and homeless people.