Drug-Induced Schizophrenia: Causes And Solutions

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/28/2020

Drugs and alcohol can have a connection with the development of schizophrenia. While drugs and alcohol definitely have a negative impact on the treatment of someone who already has schizophrenia, how drugs can induce schizophrenia is less well known. However, we do know that psychosis, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders all require treatment from professionals. 

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This article will go through some of the basic facts about schizophrenia, the background of substance use disorders, and then summarize how the two mental illnesses play off one another. By the end of this article, you will understand the relationship between drugs and schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia Background

Schizophrenia is a major mental illness that can affect the individual’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and actions, essentially every area of their life. People with schizophrenia can go through psychosis, where they lose touch with reality. This can be incredibly disturbing, difficult, and distressing to the person, their family, their friends, and anyone else observing. 

However, it must be mentioned that many people can go on to lead healthy lives with the right course of treatment. Treatment for schizophrenia may not be easy, but it is available. Treatment can help to save the life of the person experiencing schizophrenia. 

Statistically speaking, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be men than women. Also, the late teenage years are common times for diagnosis. Diagnosis is normally brought on by a psychosis, which can include the presence of hallucinations of seeing people and hearing voices, delusions, disordered thoughts and speech, and other day to day difficulties such as depression. 

A major concern, especially for this article, is the development of schizophrenia. There is a genetic component, and schizophrenia can run in families. However, it is not guaranteed to run in families. Environment and upbringing are also crucial in developing schizophrenia. Other factors, such as drug use, are also taken into account for the development of the disease. Overall, researchers are still developing and pinpointing the exact nature of the development of schizophrenia. It is a work in progress at the moment. 

If you are interested in learning more about yourself and schizophrenia, consider taking a test at Mind Diagnostics. Here is a link to the schizophrenia test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/schizophrenia-test. The test may be useful to you, and hopefully, you learn something about yourself and schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia Treatment

Because the reasons behind schizophrenia are less well understood, medical professionals, focus on managing symptoms and solving day to day problems. Treatment is performed mostly through therapy and medication.  

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Antipsychotics are the most common form of medication for schizophrenia, but many people with schizophrenia are prescribed other medications. The antipsychotics are frequently taken daily, but some are delivered as a monthly injection. Schizophrenic patients must always consult a doctor regarding their medications because sometimes there are difficult side effects. 

Forms of therapy are widespread for people with schizophrenia. Some of the more common therapies for schizophrenia revolve around life skills, training, and employment support, as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. People with schizophrenia most often need help managing day to day tasks. 

Substance Use Disorder Background

Substance use disorder, the official diagnosis for drug addiction, is a disease that causes the individual to be unable to control their use of drugs. The individual will continue to use the substance despite negative consequences. 

While the user can often begin as a curious experiment, the continued use can become more devastating and frequent. The first use can take place at a social event, like a friend’s party, and it can appear completely harmless. The term “drugs” includes legal and illegal substances, as well as prescription drugs. Many people get their start on perfectly legal drugs, such as alcohol. 

What constitutes an addiction, the amount used, and the time frame of use will vary from drug to drug. Drug users often will build tolerance over time, which means that the user needs more and more to get high. Furthermore, as physical addiction grows, withdrawal symptoms can develop. Withdrawal is your body reacting to the absence of an addictive substance. Many people die from different withdrawals every year. 

Researchers assume that most people who develop schizophrenia in part from drug use are people who repeatedly use drugs. If there is a connection between drug use and schizophrenia, the use is often repeated use.

If you think that you might be experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, then consider taking an online test. Here is the test at Mind Diagnostics: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/schizophrenia-test. Knowledge can be power, and you may learn something about yourself, as well as potential next steps.

Substance Use Disorder Treatment

If substance use plays a large role in the development of schizophrenia, the person will most likely need separate treatment for substance use in addition to their treatment for schizophrenia.

Addiction treatment gets broken down into stopping the drug use, keeping the drug free, and finding meaning in family, work, and/or society as a whole. There is no single treatment that is going to work for everyone, but addiction is very treatable. All of the needs must be treated for a patient, such as schizophrenia. You cannot just treat the addiction alone. 

 

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The major options for addiction include peer support, group therapy, medication, medication, behavioral counseling, and follow up treatment to prevent long term therapy. 

Psychosis Background

Psychosis is a general term that is shared by different mental illnesses. A mentally ill person has a loss of contact with reality when they are undergoing psychosis. The major symptoms of a psychotic episode are delusions and hallucinations, while other accompanying symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, hypersomnia, social withdrawal, speech issues, and a general lack of functioning. 

As a psychosis is often the introduction to schizophrenia, the main psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia to describe are hallucinations and delusions. 

Schizophrenia Hallucinations and Delusions

75% of people with schizophrenic psychotic episodes report having auditory hallucinations. They are much more common than the 16% of schizophrenics with visual hallucinations. The auditory hallucinations are often repetitive, controlling, and generally disturbing. 

Additionally, a key sign of a psychotic episode of schizophrenia is delusions. There are many different types of delusions, but they are generally defined as beliefs that conflict with reality. For example, a schizophrenic may have persecutory delusions, which lead the sick person to believe that a person, group, or organization is mistreating or harming them despite objective evidence stating otherwise. 

Drug-Induced Psychosis

Drug-induced psychosis occurs when a substance’s effect or withdrawal causes hallucinations and delusions. The progression of the psychosis is very much like the psychotic episode of a person with schizophrenia or other mental illness. On the surface, it can be difficult to tell the difference. If the person is schizophrenic, they are bringing out their underlying schizophrenia with drug abuse. If the person does not have schizophrenia, the drug use can still show the signs and symptoms of a psychotic episode.

Drug-Induced Psychosis in The Development Of Schizophrenia

It is possible for someone to have a psychosis brought on by drugs without showing signs of schizophrenia, and then they could develop schizophrenia later. However, it has never been conclusively proven that repeated drug use can cause the development of schizophrenia. 

Many researchers are split. Some see a causal relationship between repeated drug use and schizophrenia, and other researchers see a correlative relationship in which the repeated drug use simply helps to bring the issues to the surface. 

In one study, researchers followed people who had had a drug-induced psychosis for twenty years. They found that one in three people later developed bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. If schizophrenia were developed, it typically only took a few years to present itself. However, it is still not totally clear if the drug-induced psychosis caused mental illnesses or merely revealed underlying conditions that would eventually present itself. 

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What Can Drugs Cause Permanent Psychosis?

There are serious risks for the use of drugs, legal and illegal, especially if used inappropriately and especially if used over long periods of time. While it is uncertain that drugs can cause permanent psychosis, it is known that the extended use of recreational drugs can cause significant damage, potentially to every part of the body, including the brain. 

Researchers do not need to establish that the use of drugs will cause schizophrenia because there are so many other diseases and difficulties that are clearly caused by drugs.

Furthermore, if you have had a drug-induced psychosis, please reach out to a doctor. Causal or correlative, drug-induced psychosis can be a sign of later developing schizophrenia. 

Conclusion

Schizophrenia and substance use disorder are serious mental conditions. If both are out of control together at the same time, they can have severe impacts. Help is available for schizophrenia and substance use disorder, together or separately.

It is not currently established that a drug-induced psychosis can cause schizophrenia. Many researchers believe that drug-induced psychosis is merely revealing underlying difficulties. Regardless, psychosis and substance abuse of any kind should be talked about with a medical professional.