Schizophrenia & Substance Abuse

Substance use disorders in schizophrenics has a new report to show latest stats

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Marijuana, cocaine and alcohol are the most commonly abused substances by schizophrenics. Data on this substance abuse varies widely, muddling the picture.

A recent study collects multiple studies to compile the latest report on substance abuse in the schizophrenic population. Trends show great variation from year to year.

"Take only prescribed medications if you’re schizophrenic."

Deepak Cyril D’Souza, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, worked with a team to investigate substance abuse among schizophrenics.

The authors’ motivation stemmed from the risks associated with substance abuse and schizophrenia: more frequent hospitalizations, lower level of overall functioning and less likelihood of taking medications as directed.

Authors said, “The existing treatments [for substance abuse disorders in schizophrenics] are not particularly effective.”

Roughly one percent of the general population lives with schizophrenia, half of which have another disorder on top of their schizophrenia.

Marijuana, alcohol and cocaine are the most commonly used substances by the schizophrenic population.

Based on data from multiple studies over the years, the rate of substance use disorders in schizophrenics varies from 7-60 percent. The variations reflect trends in society that affect the type, cost and availability of various substances.

The point is that schizophrenia is aggravated and in no way is improved by substance abuse. Homelessness, violent acts and increased risk of death are just a few results common to substance use disorder in schizophrenia.

Marijuana may be a suitable treatment for certain medical conditions, but in schizophrenics it tended to increase anxiety and suspicion. Depression worsened in some, while it improved in others.

Cocaine use increased the likelihood of hospitalization and lowered daily functioning in society. And schizophrenics showed greater difficulty quitting cocaine than alcohol or other drugs.

The reward function may not work the same way for schizophrenics as it does for others. This may be the reason for such high rates of substance abuse in the schizophrenic population.

Authors intend this study to provide medical professionals with information they need to better assess risk and treat schizophrenics in light of exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Authors said, “The limitations of existing treatments combined with paucity (scarceness) of knowledge about the vexing (frustrating) problem of comorbid (co-occurring) substance use disorders and schizophrenia warrant further research on this topic.”

This study was published in the March issue of Focus. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 15, 2012
Last Updated:
January 9, 2013