The relationship between schizophrenia and drug abuse is a complicated one.
Those with schizophrenia often exhibit unusual behaviors like talking to imaginary figures, disorganized and scattered speech and lacking in personal hygiene. Some of these behaviors are shared with those who abuse drugs, which can lead people to believe that those with schizophrenia are actually just abusing drugs.
While this is typically not the case, links have certainly been found between people who have schizophrenia and an increased likelihood of abusing drugs, whether prescription drugs or “street drugs.” Drug abuse is dangerous in and of itself, but when the abuser also suffers from mental illness, the abuse’s effects can be compounded.
Drug abuse can make prescription medications used to treat schizophrenia less effective, and some drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, may even worsen schizophrenic symptoms. Also, when people are abusing drugs, they are most likely not keeping up with their schizophrenia medications, doctors’ appointments, or therapy sessions.
Smoking is much more common in those with schizophrenia, and the rate of nicotine addiction in those who have schizophrenia is three times higher than the rest of the population. Like other drugs, some studies have shown that nicotine can make schizophrenia drugs like antipsychotics less effective. Quitting smoking can cause schizophrenia symptoms to become worse temporarily, but the benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the disadvantages.
If you or a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia, reach out to us. We’re here to help.