Alcohol, Drugs and Schizophrenia Recovery: What Every Patient Needs to Know

Drug addiction and schizophrenia disorder are both serious conditions, individually affecting millions of people across the United States. However, when these conditions co-occur, the recovery process can become particularly challenging.

Although patients with schizophrenia are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol than the rest of the population to cope with schizophrenia symptoms, these substances produce the opposite effects. Helping individuals recover from drug or alcohol addiction while managing their mental health disorder requires an understanding of their unique needs.

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Why Schizophrenia Patients Turn to Drugs and Alcohol


Schizophrenia disorder, a chronic brain disorder, has varying effects on patients with this diagnosis. While it typically first occurs in young adults, younger and older individuals occasionally begin to show symptoms outside of this time frame.

Schizophrenia symptoms can range from mild to debilitating and may include:

  • Delusions. Patients misinterpret the realities of their circumstances or surroundings, often leading to grandiose or paranoid behaviors.
  • Hallucinations. Individuals hear voices or see visions, which their minds erroneously generate.
  • Disordered thoughts and actions. One’s speech and motor function may be organized and coherent at one moment and scattered or agitated at the next.

Individuals with these and other symptoms of schizophrenia sometimes turn to mind-altering substances – such as drugs and alcohol – to quiet the voices, calm themselves down, or otherwise relieve their suffering.

How Alcohol and Drugs Affect Schizophrenia Treatment


Alcohol and drugs of all types are more likely to have severe effects on schizophrenic patients than on the general public. Whether stimulants or depressants, these substances produce heightened effects on those with schizophrenia, often leading to severe reactions, hallucinations, and other side effects.

Even worse, drugs and alcohol interfere with established schizophrenia treatments, lessening the effectiveness of antipsychotics and other medications. Individuals “self-medicating” with alcohol and drugs are also less likely to follow their physicians’ instructions and take their medications regularly. When patients become addicted to these substances, they face the difficult task of substance abuse recovery as well as getting their schizophrenia back under control.

Recovering from Addiction with Schizophrenia


Individuals seeking addiction treatment along with ongoing schizophrenia management face a long and difficult process. While withdrawing from the addictive substance, a patient often temporarily experiences heightened schizophrenia symptoms. The process should be carefully monitored by a specialist in addiction and mental illness recovery to ensure it is done safely and effectively.

The addiction recovery process for schizophrenic patients may include:

  • Inpatient treatment. Monitoring and accountability are best accomplished in a controlled environment.
  • Medication dosage adjustments. As drugs or alcohol leave the patient’s system, psychotropic medication dosages may need to be increased or decreased to mitigate the effects of withdrawal.
  • Psychotherapy. The patient will need to speak with a mental health professional to understand and address the issues that led to addiction.

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Schizophrenia and Addiction Treatment at Bridges to Recovery


At Bridges to Recovery, we understand how complex the healing process can be for individuals with co-occurring substance dependency and mental illness. This is why we work with each patient to develop a holistic, impactful recovery plan addressing his or her unique needs. We are committed to helping you or your loved one gain control over illness and addiction to live the best life possible.

To learn more about our treatment options, contact us today.