Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse

What is it?

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that is characterized by a faulty perception of the outside world, and thus, dysfunctional responses. This involves a withdrawal from reality, and the subject becoming scared, confused and isolated. Subjects, therefore, resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking or using drugs, which will lead to a worsening of their existing psychosis. This is the sad truth of dual diagnosis – addicts get trapped in a vicious cycle.

Schizophrenia in drug and alcohol addicts should not be confused with the hallucinations that they may experience when under the influence or going through withdrawals. Schizophrenia is a pre-existing condition which, occurring with addiction, is a dual diagnosis and should be treated as such. Rehabilitation centres like Hope Trust take special care to ensure that treatment is individualized, and that people with cooccurring diagnosis are given treatment specific to their condition.

Schizophrenia and Smoking

The most common form of substance abuse diagnosis that occurs along with schizophrenia is smoking. There is a lot of research being done on the biochemical effects of nicotine on a schizophrenic brain. It is also known that nicotine compromises the effect of antipsychotic drugs, which is why smokers with schizophrenia should give up nicotine as soon as possible – which often means using the “cold turkey” method.

What can be done?

Recovery from the dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and addiction is a long, difficult process. Hope Trust guides patients through the various phases of recovery – the first being acceptance. Schizophrenics are often so convinced by their delusions, they think all the people around them are delusional for not seeing what they see so clearly. Through gentle guidance, we steer patients towards admitting there’s something wrong with the way they perceive the world. Once they overcome this major hurdle, the path is set for recovery.

Abstinence is the next step, which is something Hope Trust ensures. We make most patients quit using the cold turkey method, where they give up using all substances at once. As they do this, Hope Trust monitors their withdrawal symptoms and keeps them in isolation.

A challenge in treating the dual diagnosis of addiction and schizophrenia, is the use of drugs. Medication is one of the most effective tools in the treatment of psychosis, as schizophrenia is a largely psychiatric issue, involving major chemical imbalances in the brain. Naturally, a chemical is needed to counter the abnormal chemical functioning of the brain, but it is important to remember that medications are also mood altering substances. They can also further addiction. Fortunately, with advances in biochemical fields, there are non-addictive antipsychotic drugs being produced.

Hope Trust takes great pride in having many consulting psychiatrists that are experts in this field – they are able to tailor doses of medications to deal with each patient’s specific needs.

Hope Trust also guides individuals through strategizing long-term plans for recovery. They are introduced to sponsors, initiated in self help fellowships, and are given the tools they need to live a happy and healthy life. Most importantly, Hope Trust helps clients understand that they are responsible for their own recovery. We provide them with the tools they need to help themselves, while acting as a safety net in case they need professional support. Alcoholics and drug addicts, with a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia, need help in moving forward. Nothing is more profound than them learning to help themselves.