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Substance abuse and mental health – 4: Unveiling the relationship between substance abuse and schizophrenia

12-09 | By CSAA Team

Substance abuse and mental health – 4: Unveiling the relationship between substance abuse and schizophrenia

Schizophrenia, a mental health disorder that affects the way an individual feels and behaves, is both chronic and disabling. The condition generally begins when an individual is in the age group of 16 to 30 years. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the condition has affected approximately 1.1 percent of the adult population in the United States (U.S.).

Though the exact cause is still unknown, several factors, such as genes, environment, brain structure, etc., are believed to cause this disorder. Schizophrenia and substance abuse disorder (SUD) are related to each other in a way that one can cause the other. The addiction to drugs, such as nicotine and cocaine, can not only delay an individual’s recovery but also cause schizophrenia.

As we conclude the series “Substance abuse and mental health,” the current article highlights the way the two are closely related to each other.

Drug abuse can cause schizophrenia

According to one of the studies, approximately half of all individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia in the U.S. also suffer from SUD. The number is almost four times the rate of drug and alcohol abuse that is generally diagnosed in the larger population.

Though there have not been any studies to confirm drug abuse as a factor causing schizophrenia, there are certain ways in which the relationship that exists between the two is evident and certain. The genetic risk factors that are believed to cause schizophrenia can actually lead to this condition if the person abuses some form of hallucinogenic drug.

Another study confirms that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana, effects the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus parts of the human brain. The same parts are also affected in individuals with schizophrenia.

In fact, when a healthy person smokes or abuses a drug, it leads to a similar form of disorganization, as well as symptoms that are similar to those of schizophrenia. This, in turn, increases the risk of the individuals developing the disorder.

Schizophrenia can incite substance abuse

A large number of people generally opt to abuse drugs owing to their supposed stress-relieving effects that make them feel better. According to one of the studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people suffering from a severe mental illness are highly likely to abuse alcohol, marijuana and other drugs on a regular basis.

It is common for people with schizophrenia to develop some form of addiction or dependence on an addictive substance. Among the varied addictive substances, nicotine is one of the commonly abused substances. Compared to the general population, the rate of addiction to the drug is quite high among those diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Drug abuse might delay treatment of schizophrenia

A lot of drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana, etc., are known to worsen the existing schizophrenia symptoms. Additionally, consumption of such drugs during the treatment might complicate the situation and reduce the effectiveness of the entire treatment program.

If schizophrenia and addiction exist together in an individual, it is important to ensure that the medical experts diagnose the presence of both the conditions so that effective treatment can be provided. While antipsychotic medications and certain forms of psychotherapy can treat an individual with schizophrenia, treatment for drug abuse can include medications and a certain form of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management and multidimensional family therapy (MDFT).

In case any of these treatments fail to help, please feel free to contact the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors. You may also call us at our 24/7 helpline number at 866-300-5857 or chat online with one of our experts who can guide you about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado.

To read the remaining parts of the series, “Substance abuse and mental health,” visit:




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