Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse

What You Need to Know

Although it is not the most common of mental health issues, schizophrenia still affects over three million Americans and about one percent of the global population (approximately 60 million people). Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, interacts with their loved ones, manages their personal and professional relationships and maintains their overall health and quality of life. It is a partially genetic disorder characterized by the breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation. Nearly half of the people suffering from schizophrenia also present with a lifetime history of substance use disorders (SUD), at a rate that is much higher than the one seen among unaffected individuals.

Signs and Symptoms of A Possible Schizophrenia Diagnosis

What to Look For

Over three quarters of those who develop schizophrenia do so between the ages of 16 and 25 years. This means that friends and loved ones of those in this age group are uniquely positioned to identify issues that could suggest the onset of the disease. Although schizophrenia is less common than other kinds of mental health issues, like depression, anxiety and even bipolar disorder, it still happens and will likely get worse without proper treatment. Some of the more common signs and symptoms of depression may include, but are not limited to:

  • Social Isolation
  • Disorganized Behavior
  • Aggression and Agitation
  • Compulsive Behavior
  • Excitability
  • Hostility
  • Repetitive Movements
  • Self-Harm
  • Lack of Restraint
  • Incoherent Speech
  • Rapid and Frenzied Speaking
  • Hallucination
  • Paranoia
  • Hearing Voices

Studies have indicated that 25% of those having schizophrenia recover completely, 50% are improved over a 10-year period, and 25% do not improve over time. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms and have a family history of schizophrenia, speak to your doctor immediately. Although early detection can drastically improve one’s quality of life, half of those diagnosed with schizophrenia have received no treatment.