A young woman with a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and cocaine addiction

Statistics show that often, people who have mental disorders have substance use disorders. There are many reasons for this, but stress is a significant contributor. Sometimes, this stress leads to self-medication. Whatever the background or reason, schizophrenia is sometimes linked to the person having a substance abuse disorder as well.

Here is more about schizophrenia and drug abuse. How there is a correlation, about schizophrenia, and how drug addiction affects schizophrenia.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness. It may even lead to a break between the person’s reality and the rest of the world.

Many times, schizophrenia is perceived differently from how it is. Some think that a person with schizophrenia has multiple personalities or that the person is violent or dangerous. These are just misconceptions. Many people with this mental health disorder are not homeless or violent and do not have split personalities, which is a dissociative identity disorder. Instead, they live relatively normal lives with family or alone. When the disease is active, though, it can cause severe issues but can be helped with mental health treatment. However, when substance abuse is combined with schizophrenia, known as co-occurring schizophrenia, it may minimize some of the helpful treatment options.

How Does Someone Get Schizophrenia?

Many mental health issues cannot be quantified with a pinpointed answer as to how someone gets it. And schizophrenia is no different. Instead, varying risk factors play into how someone might be prone to getting it. Some of these are similar to other mental health issues and their risk factors.

Environmental Factor

In the past, it was thought that schizophrenia was due to child-rearing practices that were less than desirable. Some researchers thought perhaps the mother having influenza was a factor. Only one of these environmental components is still perceivable: the influenza correlation. As far as past trauma, that is undoubtedly a factor in some areas of mental illness, but it is not the deciding factor in how someone gets schizophrenia.

Brain Structure and Function

There is what is known as the dopamine hypothesis. It has been found that it is an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. This theory believes that too much neurotransmitter dopamine is a factor. This, in turn, causes the expression of schizophrenia. Evidence has shown that schizophrenia is a disease of the brain. Those who have this mental health disorder have been shown to have up to 25 percent less volume of gray matter. The problem is that no one place in the brain pinpoints a specific causation. What research shows for now is that the brain of a person with schizophrenia is different from the brain of someone without.

Family History

There isn’t a solid foundation that schizophrenia is genetic, yet it does have a significant component. There are risk genes, of course, but that is not the sum of its parts and it is not something where it can be said that it runs in the family. There is always a correlation, and sometimes mental illness does run in families, yet having a family history of mental health disorders does not mean that a person will have one, too.

What are the Statistics of Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse?

A schizophrenic man affected by alcohol abuse seeks treatment

According to PLOS Medicine, there are over 15 people per 100K that have schizophrenia. When it comes to people with schizophrenia who also abuse substances, the rates seem higher, according to some research.

Research shows a higher number of men experience co-occurring schizophrenia. Yet some studies show that it is a more equal percentage and seems to present itself in males at an earlier age. The overall rates of the population with this mental health disorder are between a little over 3 percent and up to almost 5 percent.

As referenced by Psycom:

Common substances abused by people with schizophrenia include alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and cannabis. Substance abuse studies vary widely, with claims ranging from 10 percent to 70 percent of people with schizophrenia having a problem. Researchers have found that over half of all people with schizophrenia abused at least one substance prior to the onset of the mental illness. People with schizophrenia also are 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder than the general population.

While these numbers may seem high, this disorder affects less than 1 percent of the population.

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What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

It is important to know that there are several forms of schizophrenia called clusters. These are varying expressions of the disease.

Each of these clusters are based on the person’s most dominant symptoms.

Paranoid Schizophrenia

This is probably the most well-known cluster of schizophrenia. People with this form may hear voices, experience hallucinations, think others are telling them what to do, or become obsessive over a particular conspiracy theory. A person with paranoid schizophrenia experiences delusions. Some people with this sub-type may appear fearful and hostile or stay away from others and seem isolated.

Disorganized Schizophrenia

In this sub-type, the person has fewer delusions or hallucinations. Instead, they may have odd speech patterns, chaotic thoughts, and strange emotional reactions. This type of schizophrenia may cause a person to find it harder to work or be around others. Their way of expressing themselves or speaking may seem disjointed and incomprehensible, making them seem eccentric or different.

Residual Schizophrenia

This type of schizophrenia is characterized by someone who no longer has certain elements of the disorder. For instance, the person may not have hallucinations or delusions but has had them in the past. While the main schizophrenia symptoms are no longer present, there are lesser symptoms or, as the title suggests – residual ones.

Undifferentiated Schizophrenia

A medical professional prescribing psychiatric medication, a common treatment for disorders like SchizophreniaIn this case, it is hard to pinpoint a particular sub-type of schizophrenia. Instead of having symptoms specific to a cluster, a person with undifferentiated schizophrenia may have a combination of a few sub-types. For example, they may have hallucinations and disorganized speech but to a lesser degree than those named under a sub-type.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Here are some indicators that someone might have schizophrenia:

Sensory symptoms: Visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there) or auditory hallucinations (hearing voices telling the individual what to do or other sounds that aren’t audible to others).

Cognitive symptoms: Inability to understand or utilize language in understandable ways, disorganized thinking, difficulty learning in conventional ways, and false beliefs about grandiose achievements or persecution

Behavioral symptoms: Self-isolation and social withdrawal, neglect of personal hygiene, fear of eating or drinking, fear of touching or being touched by other people, pressured speech, lack of motivation, loss of interest in jobs or favorite activities, inability to relate to others in socially accepted ways, wild or unpredictable behavior, and lack of impulse control

Emotional symptoms: Loss of emotional affect, flat facial expression, emotional responses that don’t make sense, lack of empathy with others, and inexplicable mood changes

How is Schizophrenia Tied to Drug Abuse?

cocaine addiction treatment in Delray Beach FloridaA combination of chemical dependence and schizophrenia present as co-occurring disorders, and this may be due to several reasons. The linking factors include medication side effects, genetic vulnerability, psychosocial factors, and neurobiological factors.

The way that researchers see a correlation is the high instances of those with schizophrenia also having drug addictions. While some of the commonly misused and abused substances are alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine, other drugs are sometimes used, including high instances of cocaine abuse.

One such drug that can trigger a relapse is heavy marijuana use. However, most substance use disorders seem to hinder a person’s recovery. When a person has psychosis and a substance use dependency, the increased risk results in unfavorable outcomes affecting the treatment process.

There are plenty of statistics relating to co-occurring schizophrenia:

  • Alcohol dependence is present in about 1/3 of patients with schizophrenia
  • Schizophrenic patients use nicotine at a rate of 70 percent
  • Patients with schizophrenia who also use cannabis is 53 percent
  • There aren’t specific numbers for schizophrenia and cocaine addiction, but usage does increase the risk of hospitalization and suicide and decreases the efficacy of treatment

In simple terms, dual-diagnosis patients struggle to overcome some of life’s obstacles. This includes keeping a job and stable housing and a higher risk of incarceration.

How is Schizophrenia and Drug Abuse Treated Together?

Schizoid Personality Disorder TreatmentFrequently, substance abuse disorders and schizophrenia are co-occurring, and this dual diagnosis needs to be treated together. This is crucial for a couple of reasons. It’s harder for patients who are treated for schizophrenia but not substance abuse to achieve the desired results of treatment, as mentioned earlier. If a person is treated for substance abuse but not their mental health disorder, a relapse may happen where the person turns to drugs to self-medicate. Both disorders need equal and simultaneous treatment.

By focusing on co-occurring disorders, one illness does not take precedence over the other. This allows the person to live a better lifestyle because both substance abuse and schizophrenia are addressed. Neither gets left out, which is what happened in history. Now, therapists and doctors know better.

Treatment options include psychotherapy and antipsychotic medications. Some of the common medications used for schizophrenia include:

  • Abilify
  • Latuda
  • Clozapine
  • Seroquil
  • and more

Therapy options include cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy. Sometimes modalities are used such as EDMR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing for those with past trauma.

We Have Answers

If you or someone you love has schizophrenia and substance abuse, we specialize in treating co-occurring disorders. We tailor a treatment plan that focuses on both and targets all symptoms – not just symptoms from one or the other.

Dual diagnosis is common, and we have the tools to ensure a successful outcome. If you want to get help with substance abuse combined with schizophrenia, contact us so we can get started on helping you live your life healthier.