Schizophrenia and Addiction


Schizophrenia and addiction often co-occur. Learn all about this dual diagnosis and how to find effective treatment help at

As one of the most complex mental health disorders, schizophrenia is a brain disease that gets progressively worse when left to its own devices. If you or someone you know struggles with schizophrenia and addiction, you’re actually battling two brain diseases, both of which can wreak havoc on your quality of life.

The everyday effects of these co-occurring conditions bring on chaos and frustration in most all major life areas. Over time, the long-term effects only work to breed more psychological dysfunction, which makes it that much harder to regain any sense of control over your life.

Treating the addiction is an essential component in managing the addiction itself, as well as schizophrenia’s effects. At, we can help you find treatment programs that have experience in addressing the types of challenges and obstacles you face in trying to get well. Call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) to speak with someone about available treatment options.

Statistics on Schizophrenia and Addiction

  • An estimated 1.2 percent of Americans, or 3.2 million people, have been diagnosed with schizophrenia
  • Within the American population, psychotic symptoms occur at a rate of 4.8 to 8.3 percent with substance users experiencing especially high rates of psychotic symptoms
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 60 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia seek out needed treatment help
  • As many as 50 percent of people living with schizophrenia also struggle with a drug or alcohol dependence
  • One out of every 10 suicides involves mental health problems, including depression and schizophrenia

Causes of Schizophrenia and Addiction

Schizophrenia takes many different forms with each person experiencing this condition in unique ways. In like manner, there’s no single cause or root for schizophrenia.

Most likely, according to the Mayo Clinic, pronounced brain chemical imbalances exist, which is an inherited factor so genetics do play a role. Family-wise, either males or females tend to be affected more frequently, though the genetic basis still derives from a combination of inherited genes from both parents.

Any number and type of environmental causes may also come into play, including:

  • Being exposed to viral infections while still in the womb
  • Malnutrition during fetal development
  • Early exposure to mind-altering drugs, such as LSD or methamphetamine
  • Trauma-ridden home environment during childhood

As far as addiction goes, both genetic and environmental factors can play a role. You may be genetically predisposed to developing substance abuse problems. You can also learn or develop unhealthy coping behaviors, which increases the likelihood you’ll turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with daily life.

Forms of Schizophrenia and Addiction to Watch For

As diverse as schizophrenia can be, there are five identified subtypes that differ in terms of the range of symptoms experienced with each type. According to the Schizophrenia Bulletin, subtypes of schizophrenia include the following:

  • Paranoid – feeling like everyone’s plotting against you, auditory hallucinations
  • Disorganized – disorganized thinking, speech and behavior; inability to express emotion or flat affect
  • Catatonic – extreme and abnormal behavior displays ranging from intense agitation to sluggishness or not moving at all
  • Undifferentiated – a combination of symptoms from all subtypes
  • Residual – applies when a person has a history of schizophrenia but experiences less severe symptoms

The combined effects of schizophrenia and addiction only work to increase the severity of symptoms experienced for both conditions.

Underlying Links Between Schizophrenia and Addiction

Underlying links between schizophrenia and addiction stem from the effects these conditions have on the brain’s chemical environment. Both conditions create chemical imbalances and both conditions thrive within the brain’s chemically-imbalanced system.

In the midst of all this, growing imbalances compromise your ability to cope with everyday stress and pressure. Increasing stress levels drive alcohol and drug use because of the temporary relief these substances provide. In turn, the effects of substance abuse only make schizophrenia’s effects more severe, creating a perpetual cycle of drug abuse and emotional distress. can help you find the treatment you need to break this cycle of dysfunction and take steps towards living a healthy, happy life. Please feel free to call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) for more information.

Short-Term Effects of Schizophrenia and Addiction

  • Inability to meet work obligations
  • Relationships problems
  • Money problems
  • Increasing drug cravings
  • More severe hallucinations
  • Muddled thinking processes
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Growing feelings of paranoia
  • Angry outbursts
  • Weakening of impulse control
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

Long-Term Effects of Schizophrenia and Addiction

Schizophrenia’s classification as a brain disease comes with a host of risk factors due to how the disease aspect of this condition tends to get worse with time. When coupled with the damaging effects of drug and alcohol addiction, the long-term effects of schizophrenia become even more dire.

According to the Schizophrenia Bulletin Journal, conditions that often develop as a result of schizophrenia include:

Addiction is also considered a brain disease that becomes progressively worse, breeding dependence and compulsive drug-using behavior. In effect, the presence of these two brain diseases creates a never-ending cycle of one condition playing off the other. Likewise, all of the above conditions further aggravate symptoms of schizophrenia and addiction.

Signs You or Someone You Know Struggles with Schizophrenia and Addiction

  • Growing suspicions that people in your life are conspiring against you
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol to make it through the day
  • Making bad decisions, such as skipping work or using bill money to buy drugs
  • Inability to tell the difference between voices in your head and real life events
  • Violent behaviors
  • Relationship breakdown, such as separation or divorce
  • Inability to stop or cut back on drug and alcohol use
  • Growing feelings of sadness and despair

Once these signs start to appear, symptoms will only get worse with time.

Call now for help with finding a treatment program that could be right for you.

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Treatment Options for Schizophrenia and Addiction

Treatment options for schizophrenia and addiction vary depending on the needs of the individual. According to the University of Miami Health System, a combination of medication and behavioral therapies works best for treating schizophrenia by itself. In the presence of addiction, an integrated treatment approach that combines treatments for schizophrenia and addiction offers the best chance of managing the symptoms of both conditions.

Ultimately, the severity of your condition will determine the intensity and length of treatment needed.

Detox Treatment

No progress can be made until substance abuse stops. Detox treatment programs provide you with the level of treatment support needed to stop substance-abusing behaviors. Treatments used may include:

  • Round-the-clock monitoring and medical supervision
  • Medication therapies
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Support group work

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient programs specialize in treating cases where serious medical and/or psychological problems have developed during the course of substance abuse. If you’re struggling with a serious medical condition or other mental health problems as a result of schizophrenia and addiction, an inpatient program is best equipped to help you gain a firm footing in the recovery process.

With the right treatment supports in place, you or someone you know stands to see considerable improvement in your quality of life.

Outpatient Treatment

Once you’ve started to develop a recovery-focused lifestyle, outpatient treatment offers the level of support needed to keep you engaged and growing in recovery. According to the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, outpatient programs treat schizophrenia and addiction using a range of interventions, each of which works to help you develop a healthy mindset and healthy coping skills for managing daily life pressures.

Interventions commonly used include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapies
  • Community engagement activities
  • Social skills training
  • Motivational therapies
  • 12 Step support groups
  • Drug education and counseling

Medication Therapies

Medication therapies play an important role in treating schizophrenia, and in some cases, addiction. Certain types of addiction, such as opiate and alcohol can be treated with medications like methadone and Suboxone, both of which help provide relief from long-term withdrawal effects. Medications also exist to help you resist the urge to abuse opiates and alcohol, such as naltrexone and Antabuse.

Medication therapies used to treat schizophrenia provide relief from the more distressing symptom, such as delusions, hallucinations and mental confusion. A few of these medications include:

  • Clozaril
  • Zyprexa
  • Seroquel
  • Risperdal
  • Abilify
  • Clozaril
  • Latuda

When to Consider Getting Treatment Help

After so many weeks or months of substance abuse, symptoms of schizophrenia and addiction start to mirror one another as the two conditions become more entwined. The effects of schizophrenia become more so pronounced, which can make managing daily life extremely difficult. According to Harvard Health Publishing, even the less obvious symptoms of schizophrenia, such as a lack of emotion or remaining immobile for long periods, should be taken just as seriously as the more distressing symptoms (hallucinations, paranoia).

Considering how drugs and alcohol only make things worse, whenever a pattern of substance abuse exists, it’s time to consider getting help.

Contact for More Information

Schizophrenia and addiction can be a deadly combination in the absence of needed treatment help. While you’ll likely experience both good days and bad days, over time, these conditions will wear away at your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

If you suspect you or someone you know may be battling the effects of schizophrenia and addiction, please don’t hesitate to call  for help 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) .


  1. National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Schizophrenia. 
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2018). Schizophrenia.
  3. Schizophrenia Bulletin. (1991). Classic Subtypes for Schizophrenia: Literature Review for DSM-IV.
  4. Schizophrenia Bulletin. (2008). Psychiatric Comorbidities and Schizophrenia. 
  5. University of Miami Health System. (n.d.). Schizophrenia. 
  6. Journal of Psychiatric Practice. (2005). Improving the Care of Individuals with Schizophrenia and Substance Use Disorders: Consensus Recommendations. 
  7. Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Medical School). (2006). The Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia. 
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