Schizophrenia and Drug Addiction Treatment

Schizophrenia and Drug Addiction Treatment

It’s hard to imagine a more daunting combination than schizophrenia and drug addiction treatment. Fortunately, there’s no reason to despair. Read on to find out how modern science handles them. Drug addiction treatment for those who are suffering from schizophrenia is very difficult for several reasons. First, many people do not understand schizophrenia. While schizophrenia is a singular type of mental disorder, it is also a group of severe neurological disorders that affects one’s sense of reality.

A Difficult Diagnosis

This misconception often leads people to misdiagnose schizophrenia, and subsequently, give the wrong treatment. Second, a person suffering from schizophrenia is often paranoid and delusional and will either resist help or not get help at all. Finally, addicts who take hard drugs such as cocaine or meth have exacerbated symptoms that are much harder to treat. Suffering from schizophrenia and addiction can adversely affect personal and professional relationships. Those suffering from these disorders have impaired cognitive function, poor work performance, and poor social interaction. These often result in unemployment, strained relationships with family and friends, hospitalization, or even suicide attempts. Around the world,  estimates say that around 16 people out of every 100,000 suffer from schizophrenia at any given time.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Since schizophrenia is a cluster of mental disorders, it is difficult to pinpoint a single cause for the condition. However, studies have suggested that schizophrenia is linked to the following causes:


People are more likely to develop schizophrenia and addiction if they are related to people who are suffering from the same condition. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, close relatives are 10% more likely to suffer from the same condition, and 50% more likely in twins.

Brain Chemistry and Structure

The presence of a chemical imbalance in the brain can lead to an increased risk of schizophrenia and drug addiction. One theory from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that a higher than normal level of dopamine in the brain is linked to schizophrenia. Dopamine is responsible for mood regulation, cognitive function, and sensory experience. Aside from brain chemistry, brain structure can also play a part in schizophrenia. Those suffering from this condition have been found to display structural differences in their brain structure, particularly in the frontal lobe.

Environmental Factors

Among the causes of schizophrenia, environmental factors are both the most diverse and most difficult to pinpoint. These can start as early as fetal development, as exposure to drugs and alcohol in the womb and fetal malnutrition can lead to schizophrenia later in life. Later on, factors such as chaotic home lives and highly stressful work conditions can also contribute.

Forms of Schizophrenia

The form of schizophrenia is dependent on the dominant symptoms being displayed. It has been characterized into four types:


The most common form of schizophrenia is characterized by delusional beliefs about feeling threatened, persecuted, or targeted by other people. These people are prone to believing conspiracy theories which often feature them at the center. They are also prone to hearing voices that prompt them to hurt others. Their irrational fear can cause hostility, fearfulness, and total withdrawal from society in an attempt to protect themselves.


This form is seen in those who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the past, but no longer display obvious symptoms. However, they still retain less debilitating symptoms such as mild hallucinations or a faint sense of dread when in crowds.


For those suffering from disorganized schizophrenia, some of the most common symptoms include sudden and inappropriate emotional reactions, strange speech patterns, and chaotic thought processes. They are unable to act “normally”, which affects their jobs, personal relationships, and home life.


Finally, those who display symptoms of schizophrenia but do not meet the diagnostic criteria of other types of the disorder are classified as undifferentiated. For example, a person who experiences occasional chaotic thoughts and uncontrolled emotional outbursts can fall under this classification.

Co-occurring Disorders: Why Schizophrenia is Common in Addicts

People who suffer from schizophrenia are 50% more likely to develop substance abuse disorders. The most common illegal substances used by schizophrenic people are cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol. Substance abuse can lead to a marked increase in schizophrenic symptoms as well as the occurrence of psychotic episodes. In order to come with the negative psychological and emotional effects, people turn to substance abuse to self-medicate. Schizophrenia and sex addiction is another common co-occurring disorder. When schizophrenia and substance abuse occur together, it can become difficult to identify and treat each disorder because they have common symptoms, such as:

  • Delusional beliefs
  • Rapid or unintelligible speech
  • Mood swings
  • Rapid-cycling behavioral changes
  • Hallucinations
  • Distrust of authority figures
  • Difficulty concentrating

Having common symptoms mean that the disorder can mask the effects of the other, making diagnosis and treatment hard. Even licensed and experienced mental health counselors can find it difficult to identify and treat each condition through dual diagnosis.

Schizophrenia and Drug Addiction Treatment

Dual diagnosis is the combination of treating symptoms of schizophrenia, and drug addiction treatment. This treatment is effective because it recognizes that schizophrenia and drug addiction connect with one another, thus treats them simultaneously instead of separately. The first step is detox, which aims to remove all the addictive substances in the person’s body. Depending on the severity of the addiction, this process can be dangerous or even life-threatening. A substance abuse counselor can recommend either getting detox in a rehab center for severe patients, or outpatient treatment for mild patients. They can also prescribe medication to help make detox easier. After detox, the next step is therapy. This step aims to help schizophrenics manage their symptoms, as well as address the causes. There are different kinds of therapy, ranging from solo sessions to group sessions, or even family therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also be used to help identify triggers and teach patients how to manage them.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is suffering from schizophrenia and substance abuse disorder, it is important to get them help as soon as possible. While there is no “cure” for schizophrenia, treatment and recovery can help people suffering from this mental disorder. Ideally, you should start the conversation about getting schizophrenia and drug addiction treatment as early as possible. Due to their feelings of persecution and paranoia, it can be hard to get the individual to agree. If you are having trouble getting them to agree to treatment, contact us today to get the help you need.

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