When Schizophrenia and Addiction are Co-Occurring

Schizophrenia is a common mental health disorder—and often, it is accompanied by a struggle with addiction. In fact, some estimates have about half of all schizophrenia patients also struggling with diagnosable addiction. There are various reasons why this might be the case; sometimes the root condition that causes schizophrenia also leads to a struggle with substance use; in other cases, the addiction develops as a kind of self-medication.

When the two conditions exist at the same time, they are called co-occurring conditions. The presence of one condition can sometimes hide the other; for example, addiction can make the true effects of schizophrenia difficult to spot. This is what makes dual diagnosis so necessary. In dual diagnosis, both conditions are identified—and as such, they can be treated at the same time, without one of them being neglected or ignored.

What are Common Signs of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia can affect anyone—women as well as men—and tends to include a number of problems with thinking, behavior and emotions. It is usually accompanied by a number of signs and symptoms. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Delusions – false beliefs that have no basis in reality
  • Disorganized thinking, which can often manifest as disorganized speech
  • Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that do not exist
  • Lack of emotional functioning – inability to make eye contact, to change facial expressions, etc.

Any of these symptoms can point to a deeper problem with schizophrenia.

What are Common Signs of Addiction?

What happens when addiction is also present? Addiction comes with its own set of side effects and symptoms. A partial list of them might include:

  • Building tolerance—needing more and more of a substance to get the same effect.
  • Feeling sick, shaky, or depressed when the effects of your substance wear off.
  • Being unable to stop using the substance, despite ill effects in your personal life.
  • Losing interest in the things you used to feel passionate about—hobbies, relationships, etc.
  • Hiding your drug use and its negative effect on your life.

[banner_image_section title=”Learn More About How to Get Help for Addiction”]1st Step Behavioral Health will work with you to address both substance abuse and mental health disorders and the impact they have on your recovery.[/banner_image_section]

What is the Connection between Schizophrenia and Addiction?

Why are schizophrenia and drug addiction so often linked? To be clear, most researchers agree that using drugs does not cause schizophrenia. With that said, the link between them is unmistakable. Those who suffer from schizophrenia have a much higher likelihood of also struggling with drug addiction. Meanwhile, though drugs may seem to be self-medicating at first, many of them actually make the effects of schizophrenia far worse.

In some cases, though, self-medication may very well be the link. Those who struggle with the effects of schizophrenia may turn to drugs to soothe them, and that drug use can quickly snowball into a struggle with addiction. In other cases, it is important to understand that these two mental health disorders might actually stem from the same underlying cause—be it trauma or brain chemistry. Seeking a dual diagnosis is therefore vital for addressing both the schizophrenia and the addiction.

Understanding the Need for Treatment in a Dual Diagnosis Case

This is ultimately what makes dual diagnosis care so significant. Without the proper diagnosis, the symptoms of addiction may be treated, but not the symptoms of schizophrenia—or vice versa.  With proper dual diagnosis care, however, you can ensure that the underlying condition is being addressed, not just the external symptoms; and, you can be certain that you are receiving a treatment that is comprehensive and effective.

For those who struggle with schizophrenia and addiction, recovery may seem like a pipe dream—but the important thing to know is that it is never hopeless, nor is anyone ever beyond the scope of recovery. The first step is simply to get the right diagnosis, something that is best done in a dual diagnosis facility like 1st Step.

Learn More About How to Get Help for Co-Occurring Disorders

Hope and healing are possible—so why not take your first step today? Get freed from the effects of mental illness, and begin the process of lifelong recovery right away. Learn more by contacting our team at 1st Step. Contact us today!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.