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Schizophrenia and Drug Use

The American Psychiatric Association defines schizophrenia as a chronic brain disorder.

It can be associated with delusions, hallucinations, trouble with concentration and thinking, and a lack of motivation.

When symptoms are present, it can be challenging to determine reality from non-reality.

Schizophrenia can have a variety of symptoms. They can be grouped into different categories:

  • Delusions
    • False beliefs not based in reality
    • Maybe grandiose thoughts and beliefs or paranoid fears, believe someone is in love with you, or that a catastrophe is about to occur
  • Hallucinations
    • Seeing or hearing things that don’t exist
  • Disorganized thinking (speech)
    • Incoherent sentences, rambling thoughts
  • Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior
    • Can be difficult to complete tasks
    • Can be childlike or agitation
    • Bizarre body language or excessive movement
  • Negative symptoms
    • Flat affect, monotone voice
    • Decreased personal hygiene, decreased eye contact
    • Decrease ability to experience pleasure
    • Suicidal thoughts

There is no known cure for schizophrenia, but treatments can be very effective.

Many times, the person with schizophrenia may not recognize they have a problem.

In their mind, everything is normal.

It can fall upon friends or family members to recognize a problem and help the person suffering.

Understanding Schizophrenia and Drug Use

Schizophrenia and drug use are closely related. Drug use can lead to schizophrenic behaviors, especially the younger, the use starts. It has been estimated that 50% of schizophrenia patients also have an ongoing substance abuse addiction, and 70% of schizophrenic patients are also addicted to nicotine.

There are times and signs and symptoms of schizophrenia and drug use that are similar. This can make distinguishing one issue from the other challenging. Some examples are:

  • Incomprehensible speech
  • Grandiose beliefs
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Depressed mood and tone of speech
  • Issues with employment and organization
  • The decrease in personal hygiene

As schizophrenia develops, you may have reached for alcohol or other drugs to calm an overactive mind and moments of disorganized thought. Or other times, illicit drugs such as cocaine or crack may have been tried in an attempt to feel better and to increase focus.

In moments of active schizophrenia, judgment can be impaired, and additional drug use can occur. Most often, the use of alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate and control the symptoms of untreated schizophrenia.

Managing these dual issues is possible. An experienced treatment center can untangle the concurrent issues of an untreated mental health issue and active addiction.

Schizophrenia and Crack Use

Animal studies have confirmed that abuse of crack cocaine can lead to schizophrenic behaviors. Cocaine-induced psychosis is a known phenomenon of crack cocaine abuse.

It can happen after first use or after many years of consistent use. For some individuals with long-term cocaine abuse, psychosis can occur more and frequently, with each one having a longer-lasting episode.

Cocaine-induced psychosis can resolve once cocaine is metabolized out of the body. In other people with long term cocaine use, the psychosis symptoms can linger for many weeks.

The cumulative effect of crack cocaine abuse tends to raise the risk for recurrent psychosis, which can be difficult to distinguish from schizophrenia.

Once the cocaine is removed from the body, many people recover from the psychosis completely. If you have had a psychotic episode while using cocaine, you are at risk for additional episodes.

The higher risk for these episodes happens in low-weight males who first started using cocaine at a young age. This suggests an early effect on the brain neurotransmitters from cocaine use and a possible re-wiring of these neurotransmitters with continued drug abuse.

Can Schizophrenia be Caused by Drug Abuse?

It has been widely accepted that cannabis use can precipitate psychotic symptoms, especially the younger a user starts. In certain vulnerable individuals, cannabis use can double the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Whether or not substance abuse can cause schizophrenia is an ongoing question. There has been proof of a very strong linkage between substance abuse and schizophrenia. Whether or not this is induced by drug use alone has been an ongoing debate.

This is an area that can be difficult to study with multiple ethical concerns and conflicting issues.

The use of stimulant drugs like cocaine can cause psychotic behaviors that can last for days, weeks, and even years. A person could be diagnosed with schizophrenia during this time. Whether or not the abuse or the diagnosis came first can be hard to determine. For substance-induced psychosis, once the substance is fully out of the body, the psychosis usually clears.

To obtain an accurate diagnosis of issues, a full mental health evaluation and a full addiction evaluation needs to be completed. A very large percentage of untreated mental health issues also involve some degree of substance abuse to self-medicate.

Schizophrenia has an even higher linkage than other addictions. The behavioral abnormalities and loss of distinction with reality allow for unchecked substance abuse, usually until a family member or friend evaluates the situation.

Treatment of Addiction and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenic behaviors can be worsened by drug abuse; therefore, treatment of substance abuse is critical for successful control of the effects of schizophrenia. Certain drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and other stimulants, can worsen symptoms.

Drug and alcohol abuse can also lead to an earlier appearance of schizophrenia symptoms in patients with the disorder.

There is a known genetic link between both substance abuse and schizophrenia. For those with risk factors, substance abuse can contribute to a worsening of symptoms.

Treatment of both at the same time can be successful. It is thought that concurrent treatment for both can lead to higher success rates for both. Once the fog of addiction clears, it can be easier to evaluate schizophrenic symptoms and behaviors fully.

After detox, the treatment of schizophrenia may involve counseling and medication therapy. Treatment of a substance abuse addiction can also involve counseling and peer group meetings. In some cases, antipsychotic medications may be needed for long-term stabilization.

Recovery is possible from the effects of substance abuse and ongoing schizophrenia. Finding the right facility that is seasoned in the treatment of underlying mental health issues while treating addiction is possible. At Resurgence Behavioral Health we assess everyone for any combination issues and work to heal the complete person.

Payment Information

If any of this information sounds familiar, you may need professional help. We have trained financial counselors who provide free insurance verification for treatment. We can customize a treatment plan for you and discuss payment options.

You do not have to live with the debilitating effects of schizophrenia and addiction. You can have a balanced and joyful life with the right commitment and treatment. Reach out to us today to discuss options.

How to Get Help

Patients with schizophrenia may not recognize they have a problem.

If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction and are concerned about other mental illness behaviors, we can help. At Resurgence, we are experienced in differentiating mental illness from addiction and beginning treatment for both.

Dual diagnosis situations require trusted professional help.

Give us a call today.

Recovery and balance are possible.

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