Schizophrenia And Drug AbuseStatistics show that often people who have a mental health disorder have substance abuse issues. There are many reasons for this. Some include the stress a person is under with their mental health disorder. In other cases, the person is trying to self-medicate. Whatever the background or reason, schizophrenia is sometimes linked to the person have a drug abuse issue 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 mental health disorder that is severe. It may even lead to a break between the person’s reality and the rest of the world.

Many times, schizophrenia is perceived different from how it actually 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, violent, and do not have split personalities, which is actually dissociative identity disorder. Instead, they live fairly normal lives with family or alone. When the disease is active though, it can cause severe issues that are helped with treatment. When substance abuse is combined with schizophrenia however, 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 how someone gets it. And schizophrenia is no different. Instead, there are varying risk factors that play into how someone might be prone to getting it. Some of these are similar to other mental health issues and their risk factors.


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 and that is the influenza correlation. As far as past trauma, that is certainly 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 having too much of the neurotransmitter dopamine is a factor. This in turn causes the expression of schizophrenia. Evidence has shown that schizophrenia is a disease of the brain. In fact, those who have this mental health disorder have been show to have up to 25 percent less volume of gray matter. The problem is that there is no one place in the brain that 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 this mental health disorder.

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 definitely runs in the family. There is always a correlation and sometimes mental illness does run in families yet having a family history of mental illness does not mean that a person will have one too.

What are the Statistics of Schizophrenia and Drug Abuse?

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

Research shows a higher number of men when it comes to people with schizophrenia. Yet some studies show that it is a more equal percentage it is just that it 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 of 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?

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 certain conspiracy theory. The person with paranoid schizophrenia experiences delusions. Some people with this sub-type may come across as fearful and hostile or they may 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, chatoc thought patterns, and strange emotional reactions. This type of schizophrenia may render 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 seen 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 symptoms are no longer present, there are lesser symptoms or as the title suggests – residual ones.

Undifferentiated Schizophrenia

In 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.

The Potential Signs of Schizophrenia

There 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 comprehensible 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?

There is a comorbidity of drug abuse and schizophrenia and this may be due to several reasons. The linking factors include things like 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 having drug abuse issues. While some of the common substances are alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine, there are other drugs that are sometimes used including high instances of cocaine abuse.

One such drug that is sometimes stressors that can trigger a relapse is heavy marijuana use. Most drugs however, seem to hinder a person’s recovery. When a person who has psychosis uses illicit drugs, the outcomes are not as favorable and the treatment compliance is more apt to fail.

There are plenty of statistics showing some of the results:

  • Using alcohol happens to about 1/3 of patients which schizophrenia
  • People who have schizophrenia use nicotine at a rate of 70 percent
  • Those who use cannabis and have had a psychotic episode is at 53 percent
  • There aren’t specific numbers for cocaine abuse but it does increase the risk of hospitalization, suicide, and decreases treatment compliance

In simple terms, those who have both schizophrenia and use drugs find it harder to overcome some obstacles. This includes keeping a job, keeping stable housing, and a higher risk of incarceration.

How is Schizophrenia and Drug Abuse Treated Together?

Substance abuse and schizophrenia occur together frequently. it is important for this dual diagnosis to be treated together. This is crucial for a couple of reasons. A person who is treated for schizophrenia but not substance abuse, it is harder to overcome a lack of treatment compliance, 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 both disorders, and treating both disorders together, one problem does not take precedence over the other. This allows the person to live a better lifestyle because the substance abuse is addressed and the schizophrenia is addressed. Neither gets left out, which is what happened in past history. Now, therapists and doctors know better.

Treatment options include psychotherapy and medication. 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/or 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. A dual diagnosis is common and we have the tools to ensure a more 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.

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