Why Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse May Occur Together

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that takes a toll on the person who suffers from it and also loved ones who watch the family member struggle. Their delusional thinking, paranoia, and psychosis can drive them to use substances to drown out the voices and pain they may be feeling, along with shame, of having this disorder. Co-occurring disorders are more common than people think. Find out why they happen and how to seek help for a loved one who suffers.

Why Schizophrenia Happens

Many factors go into why a disorder occurs. Schizophrenia is more known now than ever but is still mysterious as to how best to offer treatment. Genetics play a role in that schizophrenia occurs in less than 1 percent of the population, but 10 percent of them have first-degree relatives with the disorder. Environmental factors also play a role in contributing to the challenges of schizophrenia, including malnutrition prior to birth and birth complications, among others. The brain also plays a role in that any chemical imbalances involving neurotransmitters may contribute to the development of schizophrenia. People who have it are less likely to have gray matter and areas of the brain will show less activity than the average brain.

Co-Occurring Substance Use

Substance abuse for people with schizophrenia happens because it is a form of self-medicating. In order to mitigate symptoms, the most common method is drinking, smoking, or using marijuana. There are other means, but these generally calm the delusions and make a person feel more capable of coping in a way they cannot without substances. Nicotine is one substance they may use, while alcohol is the second most common co-occurring substance use disorder for people with schizophrenia. Marijuana is another substance they are likely to use, although too much of it can make symptoms worse. Psychotic symptoms may grow more challenging for people with schizophrenia to handle while using marijuana. Common effects of using other substances with schizophrenia can include:

  • Increased psychosis
  • Lack of medication consistency
  • More vulnerable to injury or illness
  • Higher rates of emergency room visits
  • May become incarcerated rather than receive mental health treatment
Treating Schizophrenia with Drug or Alcohol Use

Co-occurring schizophrenia and substance use disorder are more effective when integrated into a process of treatment that includes mental health and addiction disorder focus. This means looking into psychiatric options and other opportunities to heal from substance abuse while treating mental health issues. Treatment is difficult as it takes time to get the person the right treatment and it may need to change with the individual’s needs. The best hope for treatment is to seek a space where co-occurring disorders are treated with respect and dignity so they can find the hope they need in recovery.

The Last Resort provides a space in nature where you can come to recover from whatever mental health and addiction issues are taking place in your life. We strive to provide a place of enrichment that cultivates the inner as well as the outer journey of recovery. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.