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This section of the website provides an overview of Schizophrenia and addiction info. Discussion includes a brief overview of schizophrenia, current data about what researchers now believe causes schizophrenia, followed by a checklist of warning signs and symptoms, and finally a discussion about schizophrenia and addiction and treatment options that are readily available.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is of a class of disturbances that is referred to as organic mental disorders, or OMDs. Unlike disorders such as Bulimia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), organic mental disorders are distinguished by abnormalities of normal brain activities. The hallmark of these abnormalities in the presence of specific organic disturbances – actual physical impairment of specific brain functions – that in turn cause abnormal mental states and abnormal brain functioning. In situations such as this, there is typically a loss of cognitive abilities that in time lead to perceptual dysfunction, often including delusions or hallucinations.
Without treatment, schizophrenia causes degeneration of many cognitive processes, including emotional instability, disturbances in linear thinking, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and paranoid idealization. Marked social disintegration and occupational dysfunction frequently accompany these traits.
Although most researchers believe that the condition usually targets cognition and patterns of thinking and reasoning, it is also well established that schizophrenia affects behavior and emotion, often causing severe alienation from resources that might otherwise prove useful in acquiring help. Additionally, individuals who have schizophrenia are considerably more vulnerable to suffering from co-occurring disorders, each of which, in their way, is equally destructive.
For example, people with schizophrenia are more likely to have significant depression or various anxiety disorders, as well as suffering from substance abuse issues and multiple addictions. The term for a person simultaneously who has schizophrenia and another disorder is called dual diagnosis. Schizophrenia and addiction info is necessary to understand what a dual diagnosis means to you and how an understanding will assist you to acquire the most effective treatment.
Sign and Symptoms
Schizophrenia typically manifests during late adolescence or early adulthood. Although symptoms are always shaped by the specifics of each individual’s make-up, personality, and circumstances, there are predictable markers that signify the disorder’s presence.
Some of these markers include:
- Emotional lability (e.g., extreme emotional volatility, for example, outbreaks of sudden rage or fits of uncontrollable crying).
- A deficit of specific cognitive abilities (for example an inability to think coherently or reason in a linear fashion).
- Marked disorientation to time or place, or people and subjects.
- Memory impairment.
- Changes in perceptual aptitudes or thinking disturbances (e.g., hallucinations, delusions).
- Upheaval in one’s personality; for example aggression where before one was shy; which might include wildly conflicting mood disturbances.
- Impairment of impulse control; for example engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors.
- A curtailment of intellectual aptitude, signified by an I.Q. drop of 15 points or more.
Any discussion of schizophrenia and addiction info needs to include a focus on current research about the disorder’s causes. Today, researchers focus on a combination of causal factors to explain the presence of the condition. These causal factors include the role of genetics, inherited traits, neurobiology, and various psychological factors. Sixty years ago, researchers and psychiatrist believed that Schizophrenia was caused by severe deficits in the relationship between the mother and the patient. In other words, the condition was thought to be primarily caused by environmental factors. Today neurobiology is seen as the most likely suspect, although to date no one element thoroughly explains the disorder.
Dual Diagnosis – Schizophrenia and Addiction
One of the most common explanations for the co-occurrence of addiction and schizophrenia is the idea that substance abuse is a form of self-medication. There is indeed certain plausibility to this notion, especially when taken into consideration with what individuals who suffer from both disorders frequently report themselves. This hypothesis assumes that abusing liquor, tranquilizers, stimulants or opiates, is, in fact, a bid to alleviate symptoms of cognitive dysfunction and ease the emotional turmoil that attends psychotic episodes.
There is, however, a growing body of evidence that suggests that the co-occurrence of these two conditions – schizophrenia and addiction – is at least partially happening at a pre-conscious level. Recent findings indicate that there is an overlap between the neuro-circuitry in the brain that governs drug rewards and reinforcement, with what researchers refer to as the neuropathology of schizophrenia. What does this mean in layman’s language? First: it says that schizophrenia is in part characterized by the brain’s inability to regulate dopamine and serotonin levels. Second: that addiction is characterized by an addict creating feelings of well-being or euphoria by jump-starting their dopamine or serotonin production, each time they ingest their drug of choice. Third: that the pleasure produced by the drug-reward path is naturally mimicked by the organic dysfunction already present in the brain of the person with schizophrenia, thereby rendering many schizophrenics pre-disposed to substance-abuse. Indeed, according to an article published by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, the rate of abuse of various substances (including liquor – over 50%) amongst people with schizophrenia is so high that a specific causal link is all but inevitable.
What does this mean to you? In almost all cases it means that where early identification is possible, so too does the opportunity to stifle one or the development of the others and therefore improve both the overall prognosis and specifically an individual’s chances of recovery.
The initial phase of schizophrenia treatment consists of either stabilizing an individual with medications who are actively psychotic or maintaining and assisting to keep an individual stable who has come out of a psychotic episode. Stabilization is frequently achieved within an institutional setting through a variety of medications that seek to restrict dopamine and serotonin activity in the brain, and thus eliminate features of psychosis. This phase of treatment is critical and usually requires hospitalization due to the need for intensive structure and oversight. One of the most typical barriers to recovery is non-compliance with medication regimes.
Once stabilization has been attained, residential care is usually indicated. In the residential setting, further treatment is provided with individual and group counseling, in addition to psychotherapy, often focusing on a continuum of issues including family issues, employment issues, issues of distorted self-image, and assisting an individual to both accept their condition and create a support network out in the community. Emphasis is also placed on addressing the substance abuse component, often through one on one counseling, in addition to more traditional 12 Step models. By far one of the most important aspects of treating schizophrenia within a residential setting, beyond physiological stabilization, is to create a stable and safe environment in which a person can reconstruct an image of themselves that is not stigmatized. Schizophrenia is wildly misunderstood, and there is a great deal of misinformation out there that sufferers must contend with in addition to solving the challenges they create for themselves, not the least of which is a shame and an entrenched resistance to accepting their condition. Particular attention must be paid to helping an individual to re-enter society and take up their place in their respective homes with both family and friends. It is important to realize that no one treatment plan fits every circumstance, and each person has individualized needs that must be addressed. Age, background, and medical history must be factored into the equation to ensure a person’s requirements have been met.
Schizophrenia and addiction info should seek to clarify some of these issues and help provide a means to overcome common hurdles confronting a person who is entering treatment. Schizophrenia and addiction info is a vast topic. It is a topic that deserves the full resources of the recovery community to assist figuring out best case treatment options. Hopefully, this discussion has helped you to better understand both the condition and the treatment options available to you.
Also published on Medium.