What is the relationship between schizophrenia and drug and alcohol abuse?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
Schizophrenia and addiction are definitely linked for some people with schizophrenia. The Mayo Clinic lists psychoactive drug use as a risk factor or possible trigger of schizophrenia in young people. Overall, people with schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing alcohol or drug dependence than the average person. This can be problematic because certain drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana, seem to worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia. Marijuana use seems to be particularly linked with the symptoms of schizophrenia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Use of drugs and alcohol by people with schizophrenia is problematic because it may cause them to neglect their medications or other treatments. The NIMH also states that rates of nicotine addiction are tripled for people with schizophrenia compared to the average person. Nicotine appears to increase schizophrenia symptoms by reducing the effectiveness of some schizophrenia medications. One thing that doctors need to watch for is that symptoms of drug abuse can sometimes mirror symptoms of schizophrenia. People who have signs of schizophrenia in addition to addictions should be carefully screened and monitored for the illness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.