Substance Abuse Co-Occurring with Schizophrenia


man curled up on ground outside

Schizophrenia is when your normal thought process and emotional responses start to break down. You could be experiencing auditory hallucinations, bizarre or paranoid delusions, disorganized speech, and social dysfunction. Many become socially withdrawn, have poor hygiene, no urge to participate in regular activities, and become agitated. There are those that have trouble functioning in society on their own so they need the support of their family. According to Am J Magazine, up to 50% of patients with schizophrenia have either alcohol or drug dependency. Mixing substance abuse with schizophrenia will decrease the chances of recovery as well as contribute to damage in physical and mental health.

Patients with Schizophrenia tend to do drugs in order to help silence the voices and thoughts in their head, reduce paranoia and anxiety, and to help relax and sleep. Using cannabis on a regular basis can cause faster occurring gray matter loss in schizophrenic patients which involves muscle control and sensory perception. Substance abuse can also reduce the effectiveness of drugs that treat Schizophrenia.

Drugs that produce psychedelic effects such as LSD, ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and amphetamines can trigger schizophrenic episodes. If schizophrenic patients take drugs like methamphetamine, this can cause brain damage when used frequently which can worse schizophrenic symptoms. Isolation, paranoia, and loneliness can increase as patients can feel withdrawn from friends, family, and work.

For a full recovery, substance abuse must be treated with Schizophrenia. Drugs and alcohol tend to affect dopamine levels which provides feelings of pleasure. Problems with dopamine production trigger the need to use drugs or alcohol to re-establish balance in the brain’s natural reward system. Clozapine can help correct neurological deficiencies which can decrease the risk of substance abuse while reducing psychotic symptoms.

There are other modes of therapy such as motivational enhancement therapy, 12 Step Recovery programs, behavioral modification training, peer group counselling, and stress reduction therapy. Life skills classes can help schizophrenic patients get the practical skills of living an everyday life such as teaching them about financial stability, personal security, and social relationships. Family counselling can educate families about their loved one’s condition as well as how to recover from substance abuse to better assist them. Drugs and alcohol are not the way to treat Schizophrenia but to get the love and support from family and friends as well as seeing a therapist that can find healthier ways to live a normal life.

Our multi-tiered program at Simple Recovery is designed to help your loved one find success on a new path in life through school, work, and meaningful volunteering. Structured for progress, clients at Simple Recovery transition seamlessly through each phase of their recovery. Call us today for information: 888-743-0490