Schizophrenia and Addiction
Are Schizophrenia and Addiction Associated With One Another?
Among all people diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, research indicates that about half are also diagnosed with a mental disorder, and vice versa. The two conditions are known as common comorbidities. People with schizophrenia have significantly higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population, and about half of all schizophrenia patients will struggle with substance abuse at one point or more throughout their lives.
People with schizophrenia who use substances experience more cognitive impairment, more powerful psychoses, and higher rates of medical emergency or complication. They’re more likely to be incarcerated, fall into legal trouble, and develop severe addictions than people without schizophrenia.
While the direct cause of schizophrenia is unknown, it has been proven to appear more commonly among patients who have a first-degree family member with the same disorder. This pattern mirrors that of alcohol and drug use disorders, which are also significantly more likely to occur in people who have first-degree family members with the same issues. Environmental factors also play a sizeable role in the worsening of both conditions.
Co-occurring Disorders and Their Symptoms
One of the greatest challenges faced by patients and medical professionals alike when dealing with schizophrenia and substance abuse is that the two conditions produce symptoms that can overlap or even appear identical to a degree that makes it difficult to distinguish a person’s deepest-rooted problem. Overlapping symptoms in these co-occurring disorders can even make it hard to tell the severity of each condition.
Cognitive confusion, disorganized thinking, abnormal bodily movement, resisting instructions, hallucinations, delusions, and unpredictable changes in behavior are all symptoms of both schizophrenia and substance abuse disorders. It’s important to note that not every person struggling with addiction or schizophrenia who displays these symptoms is also dealing with the other comorbidity. Many of the signs of substance abuse will mimic schizophrenic behavior. This overlap is why it is crucial for a person to be evaluated by medical professionals to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
It has also been suggested that people with schizophrenia are more likely to develop problems with substance abuse as a means of coping with the inherent stress and uncertainty that accompanies their diagnosis.