It’s not uncommon that someone with schizophrenia would have an addiction to either drugs or alcohol. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, those who have schizophrenia are much more likely to have a substance abuse addiction than the general population.
Yet, at times it can be difficult to tell the difference between those with schizophrenia and those who are affected by alcohol or drugs because those who abuse drugs can show similar symptoms to those who have schizophrenia.
Michael was diagnosed with schizophrenia 23 years ago, when he was 19 years old. At that time, he had his first experience of psychosis, which troubled his entire family. Michael had been experimenting with drugs during that period of his life, but his psychologist feels that his drug use did not prompt the psychosis.
Michael has other relatives in his family who have other psychiatric illnesses. Since his diagnosis, his parents and siblings have been very supportive with helping him make it through life, although he admits it’s hard.
How To Treat Schizophrenia and Addiction
The hallucinations still come and go, especially when he doesn’t take his medication. The medication makes life feel very strange and they tend to make him feel numb. Over the years, Michael would have much rather had a drink, and he been drinking for most of his adult life. The drinking somehow made everything all right again. Having alcohol in the blood helped feel like himself, more comfortable with life, and more at ease with his problems.
To make matters worse, while Michael was drinking, he didn’t at all follow his treatment plan. He didn’t want to take his medication and he didn’t want to do the exercises that his parents and psychiatrist encouraged him to do. Plus, drinking made his treatment less effective, during those rare times when he was in fact following his treatment plan.
Plus, Michael’s therapeutic treatment plan included medications which often involved hefty side effects. For instance, side effects of anti-psychotic medication include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, increased heartbeat, sensitivity, skin rashes, and for some women, menstrual problems.
There’s also weight gain, changes in metabolism, and even a higher risk of getting diabetes. Furthermore, one time, when Michael was admitted to the hospital, he took a different medication called Risperdal, which caused tremors and a feeling of restlessness.
Frequently, Michael feels bloated, like he had gained tremendous weight when he takes his medication. It’s also like he can’t really feel himself, who he is at the core. He feels different.
For these reasons and more, Michael found himself with an addiction at the age of 42. He was addicted not only to drinking, but to another common but sometimes less severe addiction.
In fact, the most common substance addiction is not what most people think, but it is a common one among schizophrenic adults. Most people with schizophrenia have an addiction to nicotine.
In fact, they are three times more likely to be addicted to nicotine than the rest of the general population. Because the majority of adults with schizophrenia have a nicotine addiction, researchers are exploring whether they have a biological need.
Sadly, nicotine can also make antipsychotic medication less effective, which is the cause for many psychiatrists’ encouragement of their patients to quit smoking.
There are methods to quit smoking to make the withdrawal process less challenging for those with schizophrenia. However, an adult who would like to wean off nicotine should be carefully observed by their psychiatrist to monitor whether their reaction to psychotropic medication is changing.
Whether it’s an addiction to nicotine or alcohol or pain medication, a psychiatrist should know about it. The effects of an addiction can influence the effectiveness of the psychotropic medication as well as the ability to function.
If an addiction is getting in the way of treatment, it’s important to ask for the support of friends and family. It is known that most adults who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia can lead normal lives, particularly if a treatment plan has been developed and if he or she follows that plan.
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