Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse: How Connected Are They?

Individuals suffering from mental health problems such as schizophrenia may utilize substances to deal with or cope with the issues they are experiencing. However, the abuse of substances can have a double effect on a person as it could complicate schizophrenia’s symptoms and potentially increase the likelihood of an individual experiencing or worsening symptoms. If your loved one is struggling with substance abuse and you fear this could cause or worsen mental health problems, you may consider taking them to a residential treatment near you to get professional assistance.

Connection between Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse

addiction-schizophreniaOne of the most startling aspects of the connection between schizophrenia and substance abuse is the high prevalence of substance use disorders among those with schizophrenia. Studies consistently show that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to engage in substance abuse compared to the general population. This connection can be best demonstrated using the self-medication hypothesis.  According to this hypothesis, individuals with schizophrenia may turn to substances as a way to self-medicate or alleviate their distressing symptoms. Imagine dealing with hallucinations or disorganized thoughts—some may use alcohol or drugs to temporarily escape from this internal turmoil.

It is imperative to note that drug abuse does not in any way lead to schizophrenia. However, the misuse of drugs can be a catalyst if an individual is predisposed to the condition or if they are already experiencing mild symptoms.

Treatment and Management

Both schizophrenia and substance use disorder can be treated. As one condition improves, the symptoms of the other may begin to diminish. Schizophrenia treatment involves the use of medications to manage symptoms along with psychotherapy approaches for adaptation to life with schizophrenia. The treatment of substance abuse, on the other hand, helps in stopping the use of drugs and living a sober life. Substance use disorder treatment may imply spending time in a facility to get rid of the substance in the body and control withdrawal symptoms. Treatment techniques may also include therapy such as medication and behavioral therapy to help manage the symptoms and prevent the use of substances in the future.

Consequences of Dual-diagnosis

Individuals with schizophrenia who also struggle with substance abuse often experience more challenging treatment outcomes. Substance abuse can interfere with medication adherence and therapy engagement. Additionally, it can increase the risk of relapse, hospitalization, and homelessness, making it harder to manage both conditions effectively.

Another outcome of dual diagnosis is stigmatization and isolation. Living with schizophrenia is challenging enough, but when combined with substance abuse, individuals often face stigmatization and social isolation. Society’s misunderstanding of these interconnected challenges can lead to discrimination, making it even more difficult for those affected to seek help and find understanding.

Bottom Line

Addressing both schizophrenia and substance abuse simultaneously is crucial for effective treatment and recovery. In addition to treating each condition separately, you may want to consider an integrated treatment program. Programs that target both conditions together have shown promise in improving outcomes. These programs typically include a combination of medication management, psychotherapy, and substance abuse counseling. Visit a treatment facility near you to get the assistance you need!

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Last Updated on September 25, 2023 by Marie Benz