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The Relationship between Drug Addiction and Schizophrenia

Understanding the relationships between mental disorders and addiction is one of the most critical aspects of drug rehab. However, while most co-occurring conditions exacerbate substance abuse, schizophrenia may actually be caused by certain drugs. Current research is inconclusive, but scientists are finding that the same brain mechanisms responsible for addiction also influence schizophrenic behaviors. Overall, society can learn more about treating both schizophrenia and addiction by better understanding the relationship between the two.

What is Schizophrenia?

People often confuse schizophrenia with having a split personality, but it is actually a disorder characterized by psychosis – the inability to distinguish reality from imagination. What appear to be sudden changes in personality and behavior patterns are really psychotic episodes. During these episodes, schizophrenics display a wide variety of delusions and hallucinations. Their delusions may be paranoid, but they can also involve false senses of identity. Hallucinations may be sights or smells, but they are usually auditory. Overall, these symptoms can make it extremely difficult for sufferers to communicate and relate to other people.

Can Drug Use Cause Schizophrenia?

Some researchers believe that otherwise-mentally healthy addicts may develop schizophrenia through prolonged drug use. This is because narcotics such as cocaine and amphetamines work via the dopamine system. They cause the brain to rapidly increase its concentration of the dopamine, which leads to feelings of euphoria. In some cases, this repeated action can cause the brain to temporarily become more sensitive to dopamine’s effects.

Oversensitivity in this system may also be an underlying cause of schizophrenia. In fact, this condition is often treated with medications which reduce the brain’s response to dopamine – essentially the opposite of what recreational drugs do. And although a causal link between schizophrenia and addiction has not been established, people on cocaine binges have indeed been known to display hallucinations, delusions, and other schizophrenic behaviors.

Schizophrenia’s Effects on Addiction

On the other hand, schizophrenia may have troubling effects on the formation and perpetuation of drug addictions. Experiencing psychotic episodes can be extremely stressful, and schizophrenics often feel out of touch and disconnected from the people around them. Marijuana and alcohol abuse are particularly common among people with this disorder.

Also, the treatments which schizophrenics receive may actually make them more susceptible to addiction. These medications suppress levels of dopamine in the brain, but the body responds by becoming more sensitive to the hormone. In effect, schizophrenics who use narcotics may feel even greater pleasure and develop faster addictions than other drug users.

Seeking Effective Treatment

The connection between schizophrenia and addiction is still puzzling, but people who suffer from both problems can find lasting relief through clinical drug rehab. By gaining the ability to manage their cravings, addicted schizophrenics can reduce their overall stress levels and perhaps decrease the frequency of their psychotic episodes. Addiction counselors can also help them to identify and treat their mental disorders if they have not already received separate psychiatric care.

If you’re an addict who’s suffering from schizophrenia or other co-occurring mental disorders, the evidence-based therapies at accredited rehab facilities can help. Call the number at the top of your screen now to learn more about the drug rehab options available. We can get you started on the road to recovery and have you back in control of your own life.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More