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.
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.
When dealing with a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and substance abuse disorder, it is critical to seek help from a resource that understands and is equipped to address both conditions at once. This involves treating the dual diagnosis as a single, interwoven set of problems and symptoms, rather than two separate disorders. Because this comorbidity manifests so differently in each person, treating schizophrenia and addiction will vary with each case. Most approaches will involve detox, medications, psychotherapy, rehabilitation, and continuous care from both medical professionals and peer groups.
While we at Create Recovery don’t treat schizophrenia as a primary disorder, nor someone who’s having an active schizophrenic episode, nor someone who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia but not medicated, we understand that this is an important topic to the community of mental health, substance abuse, addiction, and personal recovery.
Dealing with schizophrenia and addiction requires capable assistance. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. At Create Recovery in Los Angeles, we understand that even trying to determine the most effective way to approach schizophrenia and addiction can be a challenging process. While we don’t directly treat schizophrenia as a primary disorder, we are available to you as a resource for connecting you with therapists and treatment centers who can help. Connecting with a professional treatment center that is prepared to take on the specific task of working with a dual diagnosis is one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself or for a loved one struggling with the same conditions. Schizophrenia and substance abuse disorders are both treatable, and with the right help, time, and effort, you will be able to move beyond the issues holding you back. You don’t have to struggle with mental disorders or substance abuse on your own. Call 855.518.0222 to learn more.