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Schizophrenia and Substance Addiction



Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects how a person thinks, acts, and feels. 

It can be very difficult to diagnose, as it can look like other disorders and also co-occur with other conditions such as substance use disorders (SUD). 

Alcohol or drug use can worsen symptoms of schizophrenia or make them harder to manage. 

This article will help you better understand why people with schizophrenia might turn to drugs and alcohol, what types of substances they tend toward using, and what steps you can take if you think someone close to you might have both disorders.


Table of Contents

Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects how a person thinks and acts

It is a complex condition that can be difficult to diagnose. Schizophrenia is categorized into types based on the symptoms, including:

  • Paranoid type: Symptoms of this type include paranoia, believing others are out to get you, and hearing voices that instruct or threaten you.
  • Disorganized type: This type includes disorganized speech and behavior, as well as flat affect (no emotion).
  • Catatonic type: People with catatonic schizophrenia have disturbed motor functions like being unable to speak or move. They may exhibit this in bizarre ways such as walking on tiptoe or repetitive movements like rocking back and forth for hours at a time.
  • Undifferentiated type: This type does not meet all of the criteria for another specific classification of schizophrenia but does share some characteristics with more than one subtype.


Drugs can affect the same parts of your brain as schizophrenia

  • Drugs, like alcohol and nicotine, can affect the same parts of your brain as schizophrenia.
  • The brain works through complex chemical interactions between neurons and their surrounding cells called glia. Neurons are responsible for receiving signals from other neurons, while glial cells provide support functions in their environment (like holding them together).
  • Glial cells also release chemicals that regulate neural activity – called neurotransmitters – which allow neurons to communicate with each other. These neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.
  • Schizophrenia is characterized by a disruption in the normal balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission processes in the brain. Drugs can cause similar disruptions by affecting these processes directly or indirectly through changes to receptor density, availability, or sensitivity; this leads to changes in neural connectivity and functioning over time that affects our behavior without us realizing it (which makes addiction particularly insidious).

Marijuana, cocaine, and stimulants are the most common drugs used by people with schizophrenia

In general, people with schizophrenia are more likely to use marijuana and cocaine than other drugs. 

Stimulants such as amphetamines and methamphetamine are also common in this population.

Many studies have shown that people who use marijuana regularly have a higher risk of having psychotic symptoms or developing schizophrenia later in life, although it’s still not clear whether this is due to the drug itself or if it’s because those who choose to use marijuana may be predisposed toward mental illness.

In addition, using illegal substances can lead to psychosis episodes or worsening symptoms of mental disorders like schizophrenia by interfering with how medications work in your body. 

They can also increase paranoia and anxiety about being caught for drug possession

—which can lead to self-medicating with even more drugs out of fear that you might be arrested when there is no danger from the police at all (or maybe not).

People with schizophrenia may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape their feelings or ease the symptoms of their illness.

Many people with schizophrenia experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. Drugs and alcohol can be used as a way to escape these feelings, but they can also make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse. 

People with schizophrenia may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape their feelings or ease the symptoms of their illness.


Substance use can make symptoms of schizophrenia worse

When you have schizophrenia, it’s important to know that your symptoms can get worse when you use drugs or alcohol. 

This is because many substances affect the brain and may even cause hallucinations and delusions. 

For example, people with schizophrenia may have trouble focusing and concentrating when they’re high on marijuana. 

They may also have more negative feelings (like anxiety or anger) after using marijuana.

Some studies show that having a substance use disorder makes it harder for people with schizophrenia to recover from their symptoms and manage their day-to-day. 

In other words, if you struggle with substance abuse issues as well as schizophrenia, your chances of having a successful recovery are lower than someone who doesn’t struggle with both disorders at once!


A dual diagnosis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because both disorders share similar symptoms

It’s not uncommon for individuals with schizophrenia and substance addiction to go undiagnosed. 

A dual diagnosis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because both disorders share similar symptoms. 

Both schizophrenia and substance addiction can cause hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and speech patterns. 

For example: If you’re experiencing auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) that tell you to harm yourself or someone else, this could be a sign of both schizophrenia and substance abuse.

When it comes to treatment options, there are some important differences between the two conditions as well: Those with schizophrenia may have a better chance at remission if they receive psychotherapy and antipsychotic medications in combination with 12-step programs like AA for their alcoholism; however, those with substance abuse issues might find success through behavioral therapies alone

—or in combination with medication—to help manage their symptoms without the use of addictive substances like alcohol or drugs.

The bottom line? 

It’s important that doctors understand how these conditions interact so they can determine whether treatment plans should include both types of therapy or just one particular case study being discussed here!

It is important for people who have both these diagnoses to get treatment for both conditions at once and not just one. 

Treatment for schizophrenia may include medication, therapy, and support groups. In addition to medication, treatment for substance use disorder may include counseling, support groups, and medication (to manage withdrawal symptoms).


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