You’re here because you want to know more about substance abuse and its relationship with schizophrenia. Well, we’ve conducted several studies that will buttress every point we make in this post.

As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered that the first episode of schizophrenia is usually associated with a co-occurring drug abuse. The prevalence ranges between 25% and 60%.

Another research by Lynsey Gregg, Christine Barrowclough, and Gillian Haddock, medical professionals from the School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester throws more light on the reasons for increased substance use in psychosis.

They explained that about 50% of all patients with schizophrenia are vulnerable to drugs or alcohol, due to the emotional changes that take place within these individuals.

We often characterize mental illness as a taboo. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, we tend to hide it. Be it Schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder, every illness requires clinical help.

Schizophrenia is a largely prevalent mental illness that results in delusions and hallucinations to the affected.

Some people who abuse drugs are often presented with the symptoms similar to that of Schizophrenia. We have often found people who are drug addicts to be majorly affected by Schizophrenia or vice versa. We will see how this chain of causality works.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

If a person starts exhibiting these symptoms, it means they need excessive support both mentally, clinically, medically and morally.

Schizophrenia is a chronic disease that affects a person’s entire life, how he/she thinks, feels or behaves. People who are Schizophrenic lose touch with not only the reality but with themselves and their surroundings. 

You can watch this slide to get a complete knowledge about Schizophrenia.

Some widely noticed symptoms of Schizophrenia include:

  • Delusional mind
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of thoughts
  • The depravity of thinking skills
  • Less expressiveness when it comes to emotions

It is one of the psychotic disorders that are considered morbid to a grave extent. It is believed that drug abuse and Schizophrenia often set the stage for each other.

People who are Schizophrenic already should use drugs with extreme caution as even the use and slight abuse could lead to worsening of the illness.

Diagnosis Basics of Schizophrenia

According to the stats revealed by National Institute of Mental Health, almost 1 percent of the US population is affected by Schizophrenia.

For a strong and evident diagnosis of this psychotic disorder, the patient must exhibit several of the afore-mentioned symptoms within a time period of 30 days. Some of the other symptoms that a person could showcase might include:

  • Sidetracking
  • Being incoherent
  • Irrelevant and sidetracked speech/dialogues
  • Chaotic behavior paralleled by
  • Catatonic or unresponsiveness states which are either full of adrenaline rush or quite the opposite of that.

It is quite possible that people with severe cases of delusion and hallucination may be characterized as psychotic or schizophrenic.

Their hallucinations or delusions are based on non-existential scenarios, for that matter. Along with it, general symptoms noticed for at least half a year would make up for a strong case of Schizophrenia too.

Most patients with this illness experience or start having hallucinations during their adolescence and it may even begin in their early 30s.

When it comes to males and female, men experience these symptoms earlier than women. It is rarely diagnosed in children under the age of 16, middle-aged people from 45 and above.

Causes of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is resulted or developed owing to the following reasons:

  • Genetically inherited
  • Structural or medic abnormalities/deformities in the brain,
  • Unusual alterations in brain chemicals
  • A malnourished and underfed fetus

Substance Abuse

To put it in the layman terms, substance abuse is extreme alcoholism or abuse of alcohol or any other street drug. It could be marijuana, cocaine or cannabis. Substance abuse is commonly seen in patients with Schizophrenia.

It isn’t a choice that they make but they are led into it or are forced because they lose the site of themselves and their reality.

Studies have proven that normal population is less likely to indulge in substance abuse as compared to those affected by Schizophrenia.

Moving on, you can watch this insightful video about The Psychology of Substance Abuse by Professor Andrew Assini.

When is Drug Abuse a Cause of Schizophrenia?

Let’s consider a few scarios:

i). Marijuana use/abuse: It has proven to make the impact in solidifying the case for schizophrenia in some individuals.

According to the Journal of Neuroscience which was presented in 2011 and the Journal Current Pharmaceutical Design in 2012, there is a strong ingredient in marijuana known as the tetrahydrocannabinol or THC that produces symptoms schizophrenia.

THC heavily affects the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. These two regions are responsible for making us sane or giving us human ability to make judgments. They help us to access memories.

These structures are disorganized in people with schizophrenia. When sane or the healthy ones smoke marijuana they experience disorganization of these human abilities, temporarily or permanently rendering schizophrenia in a person eventually.

The excessive and prolonged use of this drug would definitely strengthen the risks of schizophrenia.

ii). Schizophrenia and smoking: We often undermine smoking but that’s the vilest form of drug abuse that causes schizophrenia. If one is addicted to nicotine his or her chances of catching schizophrenia are enhanced.

The relation between smoking and schizophrenia seems to appall people.

It is quite complex but true to its nature that people who are psychotic or schizophrenic tend to smoke a lot or are driven towards smoking.

The biological need for this habit is yet to be studied and explored by the researchers. One reason for this bizarre combination could be the fact that smoking makes antipsychotic drugs less reactive or effective.

In order to quit smoking, that becomes another major task because people with schizophrenia find hard to withdraw themselves from nicotine. Their psychotic symptoms get worsened with passing time.

iii). Alcoholism or alcohol abuse with Schizophrenia: It has been seen that people with schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder are more likely to indulge in alcohol abuse. Not just that but they have frequent relapses of the symptoms as well.

These people have difficulty establishing relationships with their surroundings and their family or friends. Schizophrenia and alcohol when paired present threats as it results in multiple complexities.

The person is under the illusion of temporary relief and wellbeing when it is actually far from being true. The health deteriorates further and further.

Alcoholism and schizophrenia is a clear indicator of suicidal tendencies and often violence.

People tend to stay away from such a deadly pair as their dangerous streak is quite evident. It obviously makes sense when one has lost contact with reality and then put into an illusion.

Violence in Schizophrenia

It has been studied that between 10-23% of the population diagnosed with schizophrenia prior and post substance abuse will become or exhibit violent traits.

Among this 10% of the people die from suicide as they report hearing voices and getting hallucinations every now and then.

Violence seems to have propagated its way into patients with schizophrenia by following factors:

  • Having a previous history or record of dangerous/violent behavior
  • Failure to take the prescribed antipsychotic medicine on time or at all
  • Concurrent and excessive drug or substance abuse

The likelihood of the third possibility has risen quite high owing to the rising number of cases in that area.

The reason as to why people abuse drugs when they are schizophrenic is masking away, blunting the obvious or sometimes alleviating the psychotic symptoms.

This tells they are quite sure of their weakness and shortcoming or disease, therefore, they wish to overcome it by unnatural means and ways.

Wrap Up

Remember that people from various walks of life may be affected by both the menaces discussed above. If you know someone trapped in substance misuse or abuse, do them a favor and seek immediate attention before it’s too late. Yes, you can do it.

Seeking a professional and medical help is the quickest way to bring true happiness to addicts, be it from alcoholism, marijuana, heroin, or any other drug.

Let’s make the world a better place, even as we rehabilitate our loved ones from this menace of drug abuse and its negative impact on our society.




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