Schizophrenia and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Rehab Treatment

What is Schizophrenia and Addiction?

Schizophrenia is a severe neurological disorder that results in a discord between an individual’s awareness and the world that surrounds them. It alters the person’s sense of reality and is mostly characterised by delusional beliefs, hallucinations, strange personality traits and disorganised thoughts. Schizophrenia interferes with thought processes, behaviours and communication, leaving the individual profoundly impaired in the areas of cognition, social interactions, employment and relationships.

Schizophrenia and addiction often co-occur. In fact, 50% of people suffering from schizophrenia have a history of substance abuse. Although substance abuse cannot directly cause schizophrenia, it can act as a trigger. Excessive substance abuse can increase the frequency and severity of psychotic episodes. Drug and alcohol addiction has been linked with schizophrenic episodes, psychotic thought patterns and hallucinations of schizophrenia. When addiction is effectively treated and the individual remains abstinent, many of the co-occurring disorders are subsequently reduced.

If an individual is suffering from schizophrenia and addiction, this is referred to as ‘dual diagnosis’, which is a term used when a person is suffering from both a mental health illness and addiction simultaneously. A person who has dual diagnosis has two separate illnesses, with each illness needing its own treatment plan.

Signs and Symptoms

Schizophrenia is associated with delusions, disorganised speech, hallucinations, paranoia and disorganised behaviour. When a schizophrenic person starts abusing any substance, it will increase the frequency and intensity of their schizophrenic episodes, causing them to exhibit further symptoms. The signs to look out for include:

  • Violent behaviour
  • Suicidal ideation
  • More medical comorbidities
  • Legal troubles and complications
  • Prominent and terrifying hallucinations and delusions
  • Restlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Using drugs or alcohol in the hope to overcome feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Using alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms
  • Dramatic shifts in moods or energy levels
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and those who offer support
  • Intense or prolonged feelings of despair, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns (excessive sleep or insomnia)
  • Appetite or weight change

Short-Term Effects

Schizophrenic patients who abuse drugs or alcohol say that it helps silence voices (in their head) and thoughts, alleviates paranoia and allows them to sleep. Because of this, nearly half the people who suffer from schizophrenia also have a long history of substance abuse.

When a schizophrenic patient repeatedly uses an addictive substance like drugs or alcohol, it takes total control of their brain and directly affects the neurotransmitters, thereby overwhelming the brain with feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, evoking feelings of euphoria and pleasure.

However, with prolonged use, psychotic episodes worsen and once they stop using the drug, the chemicals which were released are depleted, resulting in a ‘crash’ which magnifies the physical symptoms of schizophrenia and only worsens the illness.

Withdrawal Symptoms

A schizophrenic patient who suddenly stops using the substance they are addicted to undergoes painful and disabling withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the abused substance, withdrawal symptoms can take hold within 90 minutes to a day after the last intake. At the onset of withdrawal (which is typically a few hours after the last dose of the abused substance), a schizophrenic patient will experience low mood and energy levels, accompanied by restlessness, tremors and disorientation.

Schizophrenic patients experience relatively severe withdrawal symptoms compared to non-schizophrenic patients. This is because the physical and psychological symptoms are accompanied by intense and sometimes violent psychotic episodes. The withdrawal symptoms may take weeks to dissipate. The physical, mental and emotional discomforts that accompany withdrawal symptoms for schizophrenic addicts include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Hallucination
  • Seizures
  • Nightmares

Recovery Treatment

Schizophrenia and addiction require a highly personalised treatment plan. Integrated dual diagnosis treatment is the best for schizophrenia and addiction, wherein the patient receives care for both their schizophrenia and substance abuse.

Private rehab centres offer specially designed treatment and services for people who wish to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. At Primrose Lodge, we provide drug detoxification, alcohol detoxification, inpatient rehabilitation, psychotherapy, medications and round-the-clock access to healthcare professionals.

Before treatment begins, we will help you understand how both schizophrenia and addiction work, and how to make treatment more effective. In addition, we recognise that addiction treatment shouldn’t only focus on your physical symptoms, but also include your soul and mind for comprehensive care and wellbeing. Therefore, our healthcare professionals incorporate holistic therapies to treat every part of your addiction. They include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Individual counselling
  • Family/Group Therapy
  • 12-step Therapy
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Art therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Nutrition Therapy

Benefits of Rehab

  • Be in a safe and nurturing environment
  • Medical detox with 24/7 care & support
  • Overcome the root causes of addiction
  • Experienced team of doctors & therapists
  • Personalised rehabilitation programme
  • Look, feel, sleep better & regain confidence
  • Learn techniques for relapse prevention
  • 1 year complimentary aftercare support

Get Help Today

Schizophrenia and addiction can’t be cured by sheer willpower alone. If you or a loved one are suffering from schizophrenia and addiction to any substance, you’ll require specialised treatment which will equally address both the illness and addiction.

At Primrose Lodge, we specialise in detox programmes and inpatient treatment for schizophrenia dual-diagnosis patients to detox from the drugs or alcohol and stay abstinent in a calm and serene environment, under the supervision of experienced, professional staff. With our help, you can effectively manage schizophrenia and live a substance-free life.

Call us now on 0203 553 9263 to discuss treatment options.

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