There is a strong correlation between mental illness and substance misuse.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa.”
Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating psychiatric disorder affecting how one thinks, feels, and acts. People with schizophrenia can have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, expressing and managing normal emotions, and making decisions. It is a mental health disorder that frequently leads to attempts to self-medicate intense emotional upheaval with drugs and alcohol.
Schizophrenia has also been linked to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), a big driver of addiction. In a 2012 study, researchers at the University of Liverpool found that children who experience severe trauma are three times more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life. “The findings shed new light on the debate about the importance of genetic and environmental triggers of psychotic disorders. For many years, research in mental health has focused on the biological factors behind conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression, but there is now increasing evidence to suggest these conditions cannot be fully understood without first looking at the life experiences of individual patients.”
Those life experiences are often hard to bear. Since substance misuse—especially in the form of addiction—quickly adds more anguish to patients already suffering, suicidal ideation is common. The suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population, according to a study published in the journal Schizophrenia Research. This is a figure the authors call “tragically high.”
“In the past clinicians have focused on treating the psychosis itself when it first appears,” said senior author Dr. Paul Kurdyak, Director, Health Outcomes and Performance Evaluation, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research. “This study shows that treatment has to include suicide prevention safety planning as well from the very beginning.”
Certain substances may actually be involved in the onset of schizophrenia. “Common substances abused by people with schizophrenia include alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and cannabis,” writes Kathleen Smith on psycom.net. “Researchers have found that over half of all people with schizophrenia abused at least one substance prior to the onset of the mental illness. People with schizophrenia also are 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder than the general population.”
“People with schizophrenia who abuse substances experience more cognitive impairment, more intense psychosis, and higher rates of needing emergency services,” writes Kathleen Smith. “They are also more likely to be incarcerated and experience legal troubles. Among people with schizophrenia, young men and people with lower levels of education are particularly at risk for developing a substance use disorder.”
The strong correlation between schizophrenia and other comorbidities with SUDs is most effectively addressed in addiction treatment. At Recovery Ways, the focus is on treating all mental health conditions, including substance use disorders. Recovery Ways is dually licensed to treat mental health and addiction. Psychiatric support makes a big difference for addicted people with mental health issues that are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
“Roughly 50 percent of our patients get diagnosed with a mental illness that hasn’t been diagnosed before,” says Recovery Ways’ medical director, Duy Pham. “We also often re-diagnose patients who have previously been diagnosed improperly.” Because the team includes specialists like Dr. Pham, Recovery Ways can handle even the most difficult mental health conditions—including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
At Recovery Ways, every patient receives evidence-based treatment after a comprehensive assessment of both substance misuse and co-occurring mental health issues. A licensed member of our treatment team helps each patient develop an individualized plan tailored to address their specific needs. Our 360-degree holistic approach to rehabilitation allows patients to heal their mind, body, and spirit and start their life-long journey of recovery.