Schizophrenia and Drug Addiction: What is the Link?

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Schizophrenia and drug addiction is a co-occurring disorder. So many individuals who enter into a drug treatment facility often relapse due to underlying mental conditions going unchecked. Many individuals may stay clean and sober for months or years and relapse due to their underlying condition. This is why it is so vital that we choose a rehabilitation center that assesses each individual carefully and treats them accordingly.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic, incurable brain disorder. This chronic brain disorder affects your ability to think, behave, and feel clear. More than 21 million people worldwide are affected by this condition. Research has found that there is a clear link between schizophrenia and drug addiction. 

Schizophrenia is an acute mental condition that causes individuals to experience the following types of Psychosis:

  • Audible Hallucinations
  • Visual Hallucinations
  • Changes in behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Angry outbursts for no reason
  • Confused thoughts

 Do Drugs Cause Schizophrenia?

There is evidence that individuals with mental disorders do self medicate with illicit substances. Research has suggested that individuals who abuse substances are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

This condition can affect all races, ages, genders, and social statuses. It is, however, more prevalent in males.

  • Disorganized Thinking – confusing thought patterns, short attention span, poor logic, answering questions that weren’t asked, and disorganized speech.
  • Abnormal motor behavior – childlike behavior, sudden aggression, resistance to instructions, unusual body movements.
  • Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that do not exist
  • Delusions – false or strange belief systems. For example, believing that billboards are speaking to them or that they were sent to save the world.
  • Changes in daily behaviors – neglecting hygiene, loss of interest in daily activities, lack of emotion, and isolation.
  • Violence – usually occurs where there is a case of substance abuse

What are the Causes of Schizophrenia?

It is unknown what causes this condition, but certain factors change brain chemistry and may be causes for schizophrenia:

  • Brain Chemistry – certain unbalanced neurotransmitters play a role in the onset of schizophrenia
  • Environment – there is a link between genes and certain environmental factors such as malnutrition before birth, poor brain development before birth, and exposure to viruses.
  • Genetics – schizophrenia runs in families but it does not mean that everyone will inherit their family genes.

The Link Between Schizophrenia and Addiction

People with schizophrenia are up to four times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder than the general population.

Substance abuse and schizophrenia occur with the mind first and the drug abuse is second. Most importantly, someone with schizophrenia will use addictive substances to cope with the symptoms of the condition. This is never a good idea as drugs will increase the symptoms of schizophrenia.

What substances are High Risk for Schizophrenia?


According to statistics, around 53 percent of people experience psychosis after abusing cannabis. People who suffer from mental conditions are using cannabis to self medicate and this just increases the severity of the mental disorder. A large study found that cannabis changes the chemical structure in the brain and causes schizophrenia. Cannabis may be a legal substance in South Africa, but its important to remember that it is still a drug that affects the structure of our brain.


Alcohol is legal and it is available everywhere. Due to this fact, many individuals with a mental condition will self medicate with habitual drinking. Around one-third of individuals with a mental condition will suffer from alcoholism.

 Individuals with Schizophrenia and Drug Addiction Will Stop Their Medication

When an individual with schizophrenia develops an addiction, they will stop taking their medication. This is dangerous as they will likely resort to violence, self-harm, and criminal activities.

 Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders

Schizophrenia cannot be cured but there is treatment available to suppress psychotic episodes and relapse. ARCA rehabs have experience with mental disorders and addiction. ARCA rehabs offer a full assessment to ascertain if the patient has an underlying mental condition and tailor a treatment plan according to their needs. Relapse is inevitable if the underlying mental condition is not treated correctly. Call ARCA rehabs Durban Or Jhb today, and get your life back for good.

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