Did you know that schizophrenia and substance abuse are linked?
In fact, that relationship may be closer – and more complicated – than most people realize.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association:
- Approximately half of all people with a mental illness also have a Substance Use Disorder (SUD).
- 53% of drug abusers have a co-occurring mental disorder.
- 37% of people alcoholics have a co-occurring mental disorder.
And one of the most debilitating comorbid conditions is schizophrenia.
First Things First – What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that severely impacts how someone feels, thinks, and behaves. Worldwide, over 21 MILLION people worldwide struggle with schizophrenia, making it the third-most-common disabling condition.
To be clear – schizophrenia disables more people than blindness.
- Hallucinations affecting every sense
- Movement disorders
- Impaired decision-making
- Lack of attention or focus
- Poor motivation
- Memory difficulties
- Verbal impairment
- Inability to form attachments
Schizophrenia has no cure, but the symptoms are manageable with support and medication.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
The prevailing theory is that the way the brain processes dopamine is involved. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved associated with motivation, reward, and learning.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined that patients with comorbid schizophrenic and addictive disorders have decreased dopamine sensitivity in the brain region responsible for reward and increased dopamine sensitivity in the region associated with psychosis.
Certain causal factors increase the risk of schizophrenia, especially if the exposure was pre-birth or during puberty:
- Marijuana use
- Living in a large city – DOUBLES the risk
Schizophrenia usually presents in adolescents or young adults. In 40% of males and 23% of females diagnosed with schizophrenia, it manifested before they turned 19.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse
With medication and support, schizophrenics can enjoy a largely-independent quality of life, but timely intervention and treatment is absolutely crucial. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner the progression of these two co-occurring disorders can be stopped, and the better the chances of a positive outcome.
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